By Karen Young

Genmab A/S entered a new collaboration agreement with Immunex Corp. to discover and develop an antibody against an Immunex cancer target to treat lymphoma.

Genmab, of Copenhagen, Denmark, already has developed HuMax-IL15 to treat rheumatoid arthritis in its existing collaboration with Seattle-based Immunex, a product in Phase I/II trials.

¿This new agreement speaks very well of [our collaboration],¿ Lisa Drakeman, CEO of Genmab, told BioWorld Today. ¿They¿re obviously satisfied because we¿ve moved the first product into the clinic.¿

Under the new agreement, Genmab will be responsible for developing the antibody, HuMax-Lymphoma, through Phase II trials. Immunex will have an exclusive option for a ¿short window¿ after Phase II trials are completed, Drakeman said. If Immunex takes this option, it would be responsible for completing the clinical development of HuMax-Lymphoma and would pay Genmab a license fee, milestones and share profits if it is commercialized. No specific financial terms were disclosed.

The antibody is designed to target the interleukin-15 receptor, and area in which Immunex has a strong intellectual property position.

¿We will receive very significant profit sharing if they take the option,¿ Drakeman said. ¿If they do not choose [to take the option], we have the right to continue [development].¿

If it takes the option, Immunex would then pay the development costs going forward. Drakeman said the agreement is a good one for both parties because it gives Immunex another product in its portfolio, while Genmab takes the risk of paying for the cost of Phase I/II trials. Immunex will provide technical support, but Genmab will focus on the use of its transgenic mice. In return, ¿the back end is really very good for us,¿ Drakeman said.

If Genmab commercializes the antibody, it would pay milestone fees and royalties to Immunex.

¿From the perspective of Immunex, [this agreement] strengthens our broad base of resources that support Immunex¿s discovery platform, so this emphasizes the strong IL position with IL-15 and IL-Lymphoma,¿ said Kris Greco, corporate communications manager for Immunex. ¿It increases our bandwidth without really spending our resources.¿

Drakeman said it will take about two years before going into the clinic with HuMax-Lymphoma.

¿We do extensive animal and preclinical [testing], and then the manufacturing process takes about a year,¿ Drakeman said.

The IL-15 receptor is found on a number of tumor types, including T-cell and natural killer cell lymphomas, as well as multiple myeloma.

Immunex¿s stock (NASDAQ:IMNX) closed down 17 cents Monday at $19.94.