Washington Editor

One year after signing a $1.4 billion agreement aimed at developing 12 drugs in obesity and diabetes, CuraGen Corp. and partner Bayer Corp. said they have successfully completed screening against four targets.

Furthermore, CuraGen, of New Haven, Conn., has selected 31 of the 80 targets promised to Bayer during the next five years. The companies intend to bring the 12 small-molecule drug candidates to the clinic in the first five years of the joint venture that is expected to last 15 years. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 17, 2001.)

In a prepared statement, John Amatruda, vice president, Department of Diabetes and Obesity Research for Bayer, said, “These targets are enabling Bayer scientists to rapidly and efficiently complete screens against our library compounds. We credit the substantial progress we have made to our excellent working relationship with CuraGen, which is resulting in the development of an early stage pipeline of innovative therapies.”

Mark Vincent, CuraGen’s director of corporate communications and investor relations, said, “By working closely with a strategic partner like Bayer, we are leveraging each other’s complementary expertise and resources to ultimately develop pharmaceuticals to treat obesity and diabetes. We have not seen a partnership similar to this make as much progress this quickly as we’ve made in our alliance with Bayer.”

The original deal called for the companies to split research and development costs at 56 percent for Bayer and 44 percent for CuraGen. Bayer of West Haven, Conn., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany.

The plan is for the companies to jointly commercialize and share profits of drugs resulting from the alliance.

The second part of the collaboration is a pharmacogenomic and toxicogenomic evaluation of the Bayer pipeline and the development of a marketable database of gene-based markers and toxicity information.

That five-year expandable part of the agreement is valued at $124 million and includes an $85 million equity investment in CuraGen by Bayer and $39 million in committed funding to CuraGen.

CuraGen, a genomics-based drug discovery and development company, has other major collaborations with companies such as Abgenix Inc., of Fremont, Calif. The longtime partners in monoclonal antibody discovery research are working to find and commercialize fully human MAbs. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 10, 1999; Aug. 16, 2000; and Nov. 29, 2000.)

Rebecca Horton, spokeswoman for CuraGen, said the Abgenix and Bayer agreements are similar in that CuraGen has a stake in the downstream results of the work. Most of CuraGen’s other agreements entail pay for service.

CuraGen’s stock (NASDAQ:CRGN) closed Thursday at $16.30, up 10 cents.