Washington Editor

Medarex Inc. and Zycos Inc. entered an equal partnership to discover cancer drugs using technologies developed by each company.

Medarex Inc., of Princeton, N.J., will contribute its UltiMAb Human Antibody Development System to generate the antibodies against targets identified from Zycos’ protein expression screening technology, named Canvas.

The 50-50 collaboration calls for the companies to share in research, development and commercialization costs and to benefit equally from revenues resulting from any successful products.

“We’ve got hundreds of antibody targets that we’ve discovered and we saw Medarex as being one of the top antibody companies that is really focused on making products quickly and getting them into the clinic quickly. That’s exactly what we’re doing, only we do it with DNA,” Mark Philip, president and CEO of Lexington, Mass.-based Zycos, told BioWorld Today.

“We like what Zycos is doing technologically and we feel it is important to link our development system with their very exciting science and their high-throughput approach to proteomics,” Chris Schade, chief financial officer of Princeton, N.J.-based Medarex, told BioWorld Today. “We think it’s going to yield pretty interesting stuff and we want to work with them on a 50-50 basis and carry it forward into development and the market.”

Medarex’s UltiMAb system comprises its transgenic mouse that is injected with an antigen and automatically has an immunological response, then generates and makes antibodies.

Philip said Zycos hopes to be in the clinic in the next 12 to 24 months, with a product resulting from this Medarex collaboration. “We have the targets, we’ve done a lot of validation already so the next step is to sit down with Medarex and come up with the quickest plan to get into the clinic,” Philip said.

“What we are good at is turning genes into drugs very quickly,” Philip said. “We have a whole pool of them and we’re trying to exploit them as quickly as we can.”

In December, privately held Zycos completed enrollment of a Phase IIb study of ZYC101a, a DNA-based therapeutic being tested in patients with human papillomavirus-associated cervical dysplasia. Another Zycos product, ZYC300, is expected to enter Phase I/IIa studies this year for a number of cancers.

Medarex has a number of licensing agreements and 50-50 deals with companies including Human Genome Sciences Inc., of Rockville, Md., and Incyte Genomics Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.

Medarex’s other programs are the T-12 Development, which offers the potential to move from target to trial in about 12 months, and the Trans-Phage Technology, a system that combines high-throughput screening with fully human antibody development.

Medarex’s stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) closed Tuesday at $14.05, up 43 cents.