By Brady Huggett

Following up on its public offering registration, ICOS Corp. in-licensed a compound, RTX, from Afferon Corp. and revealed that it began a Phase I trial with its anti-inflammation product, IC485.

ICOS, in a quiet period due to its 4.5-million-share proposed public offering disclosed Friday, signed an agreement in which is receives worldwide license rights to RTX to treat urological disorders.

In return for the rights, Afferon receives an undisclosed up-front payment, milestones and royalties on any approved products. ICOS, of Bothell, Wash., will pay for development and commercialization of RTX and any analogues.

RTX, a member of the family of compounds called vanilloids, has been tested in Phase I and Phase II studies, enrolling patients with interstitial cystitis and overactive bladder. The compounds are designed to desensitize peripheral afferent nerves that send information concerning the external and internal environments to the spinal cord. These nerves relay information associated with several human diseases and symptoms, including pain, urinary incontinence, rhinitis, arthritis, asthma and gastrointestinal disorders. RTX is a small molecule and is delivered to the bladder via catheter.

Privately held Afferon, of Wayne, Pa., licensed the family of compounds from the National Institutes of Health, of Bethesda, Md. Afferon¿s next move should be more of the same, said its founder, chairman and chief scientific officer, Helmer Agersborg.

¿ICOS is a very good partner; we look forward to working with them,¿ Agersborg said. ¿We¿ll use the funding to develop indications for our series of vanilloids. We will be investigating their use in cluster headache and infectious rhinitis.¿

Afferon, a small company with 5 employees, does all its work on a contract basis, Agersborg said. The company was founded in 1992 by Agersborg and ¿primarily two venture capitalist operations.¿ Developing RTX and then licensing it out is part of Afferon¿s ¿current business model,¿ Agersborg said.

ICOS said an estimated 500,000 patients in the United States alone suffer from interstitial cystitis, a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder.

Separately, ICOS said it initiated a Phase I trial with its PDE4 inhibitor, IC485, a potential therapeutic for the treatment of inflammatory conditions. PDE4 inhibitors such as IC485 are designed to reduce macrophage production of cytokines responsible for inflammation. The trial is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, ascending-oral-dose study and will involve healthy volunteers, although ICOS said it may elect to evaluate IC485 in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

ICOS is offering the 4.5 million shares for its public offering through a shelf registration statement filed in June. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 5, 2001, and June 27, 2001.)

ICOS officials, in a quiet period because of the public offering, would not comment on details of the licensing deal.

ICOS¿ stock (NASDAQ:ICOS) gained $2.13 Monday to close at $57.94.