By Brady Huggett

Medarex Inc. continued to do what it does best, signing a deal to use its UltiMAb System to create antibody leads, this time for biotechnology giant Human Genome Sciences Inc.

The agreement is Medarex¿s 39th partnership overall, and the 13th this year. It would be difficult to believe signing number 13 with HGS, a company that had about $1.8 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments at the end of the first quarter, is unlucky.

Like so many deals in Medarex¿s past, Medarex will get license fees, milestone payments where applicable, and is entitled to royalties on sales of any products derived from the agreement.

¿It¿s fair to say that it is similar to the other cash-and-carry deals that we do,¿ Medarex CEO Don Drakeman said, referring to the moniker his company has for deals such as this. ¿It¿s really an opportunity for [HGS] to use our technology for product development.¿ Drakeman declined to provide further financial details.

For HGS, which already has antibody deals with Cambridge Antibody Technology plc, of Melbourn, UK, and Abgenix Inc., of Fremont, Calif., the Medarex deal is ¿additive to our other collaborations,¿ said Craig Rosen, executive vice president of research and development at HGS.

¿Medarex has the mice but they have some other technologies and we wanted to see how that fit with some of our proteins,¿ Rosen said. ¿We have plenty of antigens. Before we bring anything in house, we want to see how well this works with two targets.¿

Medarex, of Princeton, N.J., expects to use its Human Antibody Development System, also called UltiMAb, to create antibody leads to target proteins supplied by HGS. HGS will then be responsible for any therapeutic or diagnostic product development, if it chooses to pursue the antibodies in that direction, and will have an option to exclusively license any resulting products. The specific indications for any antibodies developed were not disclosed.

How those antibodies are generated is up to HGS, Drakeman said.

¿We are flexible; if [HGS] would like, it can provide the targets to us and we can create the antibodies,¿ he said. ¿Or, we can provide the [transgenic] mice to them, or both. That is their choice.¿

HGS, of Rockville, Md., recently freed itself from a therapeutic consortium, led by HGS and GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London. The consortium expired, leaving HGS in the clear to sign partnerships with other companies and expand its own drug discovery projects. (See BioWorld Today, June 3, 2001.)

Medarex has not yet released its second-quarter earnings, but it generated $15.7 million in revenue and interest income in the first quarter. Excluding interest income, it had $8.9 million in revenues. Drakeman said a good portion of that $8.9 million relates to the UltiMAb system and Medarex expects nothing but growth in that area¿s future.

Medarex has an agenda of its own, and Drakeman said the company is ¿committed¿ to being ¿very aggressive¿ with its product development programs ¿ aggressive to the tune of 10 investigational new drug application filings by the end of 2002. But that doesn¿t mean there aren¿t more cash-and-carry agreements on the way.

¿I expect you will see more deals [in the future], because the industry-wide capacity continues to grow in terms of interest in the technology,¿ he said. ¿And you will see us doing very significant product development, expanding the Medarex proprietary pipeline. We¿ll be moving products from the mice to the clinic.¿

Medarex¿s stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) rose $1.19 Wednesday to close at $19.60. HGS¿s stock (NASDAQ:HGSI) jumped $4.02 to end the day at $50.20.

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