By Brady Huggett

Abgenix Inc. signed another of what it called its ¿typical¿ XenoMouse agreements, this time with Biogen Inc., to generate fully human monoclonal antibodies for up to 15 Biogen-supplied antigen targets.

Abgenix will receive up-front research payments, could pull in license and milestone payments, and will get royalties on product sales. Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen will be responsible for product development, manufacturing and commercialization of any products.

Kathryn Bloom, senior director of public affairs at Biogen, said the company has reasons to be ¿very enthusiastic¿ about working with Fremont, Calif.-based Abgenix.

¿During the past year we have refocused our research strategy in four major areas: oncology, fibrosis, neurodegeneration and inflammation,¿ she told BioWorld Today. ¿This is a very strong collaboration that we feel will further strengthen our research program.¿

Although Abgenix has collaborations for its XenoMouse technology around the globe, Biogen makes this deal noteworthy, said Scott Greer, CEO and chairman of Abgenix.

¿We are thrilled to be working with a company of Biogen¿s class ¿ it¿s a first-rate outfit,¿ he said.

The financial specifics of the deal remain undisclosed, but Ina Cu, manager of investor relations at Abgenix, said the deal with Biogen is similar to other deals signed for its XenoMouse technology.

¿A typical XenoMouse deal [such as the one with Biogen] is anywhere from $8 million to $10 million, including up-front, license, and research fees, and milestones,¿ Cu said. ¿In addition to that, we would get a middle single-digit royalty rate.¿

Abgenix, which generated $4.2 million in contract revenue for the first quarter of 2001, up from about $2 million in 2000¿s first quarter, has 30 collaborations with its XenoMouse technology, including the one announced yesterday. This year, it has signed or expanded 10 collaborations, including the Biogen deal. Abgenix closed the first quarter with $631.6 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments.

Abgenix has more than its XenoMouse technology, however. It moved its monoclonal antibody, ABX-EGF, partnered with Seattle-based Immunex Corp., into a Phase II trial for kidney cancer in April, and Cu said the company plans to start another two or three Phase II studies in more specific cancers ¿ such as colorectal and prostate ¿ this year. (See BioWorld Today, April 19, 2001.)

Abgenix¿s mouse antibody, ABX-CBL, is in Phase II/III trials for graft-vs.-host disease, and ABX-IL8 is in Phase IIb for psoriasis and Phase IIa for rheumatoid arthritis. Abgenix expects to begin a third Phase II in cardiac obstructive pulmonary disease soon, Cu said.

Biogen has seen both good and bad trial news recently. Tuesday it announced it intends to file worldwide regulatory applications later this year for its psoriasis product, Amevive, based on statistically significant positive results from two Phase III trials in patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. (See BioWorld Today, June 13, 2001.)

A month ago, Serono SA, of Geneva, Switzerland, released positive data from its Rebif vs. Avonex trial, pitting Rebif, for relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis against Biogen¿s Avonex. Avonex generated $552 million in sales in the United States in 2000.

Full data from that trial, as well as safety results, should be presented a week from Friday at the World Congress of Neurology in London, and Serono said it would immediately file following the presentation to break Biogen¿s orphan drug status in the U.S. for Avonex. Biogen officials remained unimpressed, releasing their own statement calling Serono¿s six-month data ¿an incomplete measure¿ of a disease that must be treated over the long term. (See BioWorld Today, May 9, 2001.)

For Abgenix, as far as XenoMouse collaborations are concerned, it¿s business as usual in Fremont.

¿This is the fifth new partnership we¿ve added this year,¿ Greer said. ¿We¿ve had a pretty busy first half so far.¿

Abgenix¿s stock (NASDAQ:ABGX) fell 78 cents Wednesday to close at $39.10. Biogen¿s stock (NASDAQ:BGEN) rose 43 cents to close at $65.40.

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