By Karen Young

Athersys Inc. entered a multiyear drug discovery collaboration with Pfizer Inc. to provide cell lines expressing protein drug targets for undisclosed indications.

Athersys, of Cleveland, will use its RAGE (Random Activation of Gene Expression) technology to provide New York-based Pfizer with human cell lines expressing specific protein drug targets.

¿A lot of the work will fall to Athersys in the initial stages of the collaboration,¿ said Kathryn Garvey, director of strategic planning and investor relations for Athersys. ¿Once the targets have been determined, we will be optimizing those cell lines for high-throughput screening at Pfizer.¿

Athersys will receive licensing fees for each validated target cell line it delivers, milestone payments upon the development of drug candidates, and milestone or royalty payments based on sales of any products developed by Pfizer using Athersys technology.

This is the fourth collaboration for Athersys with its RAGE technology.

¿Athersys has been very effective at attracting some of the premier biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies,¿ Garvey said.

RAGE is a broad technology that has many applications, she said, and one of the major ones is functional genomics, which privately held Athersys is applying toward the further evolution of the company.

¿RAGE is internally viewed as a tool technology for the company, which allows us to reap near-term revenues so we can build our own infrastructure and our internal product development pipelines,¿ Garvey said.

In January, Athersys entered a collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, for the production of human cell lines expressing six validated drug targets.

Athersys in March began a collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to discover and functionally validate cancer and inflammation drug targets. (See BioWorld Today, March 12, 2001.)

In October, Athersys and 3-Dimensional Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Yardley, Pa., entered a collaboration to discover, develop and commercialize small-molecule drugs by screening against targets derived from the G protein-coupled receptor family of proteins. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 30, 2001.)