By Matthew Willett

Medarex Inc. formed a strategic alliance to generate fully human antibodies against cancer with Northwest Biotherapeutics Inc. The move marks the company¿s 34th antibody generation deal, the latest example of what Medarex CEO Don Drakeman calls his ¿shots on goal¿ strategy.

The collaboration is the second between the companies.

Drakeman told BioWorld Today his strategy is designed to maximize Medarex¿s pipeline.

¿I think where this is going to put us is that we¿re going to be able to develop a large pharmaceutical company-like pipeline,¿ Drakeman said. ¿That is to say, large pharmaceutical companies are putting into clinical trials five to 10 or so new product candidates per year, and we¿re looking to do that. It¿s that high-throughput approach to drug development that has allowed the pharmaceutical industry to build pipelines like they¿ve historically had. I think that, by accessing terrific targets by partnership and by using our highly effective UltiMAb platform, we¿ll be able to match that level of production, and at the end of the day build a major-league commercial pipeline.¿

The deal with Northwest is typical of Medarex¿s genomics deals, he said. It¿s an equal-input, equal-ownership cost and revenue sharing arrangement, and it includes a $4 million equity investment in Northwest. If Northwest goes public in the next year, Medarex will buy an additional $3.5 million in common stock.

Medarex ended 2000 with cash and cash equivalents of $343.6 million.

¿Cash is a critical strategic asset in biotechnology,¿ he said. ¿The fact that we were able to raise a great deal of it last year has allowed us to move products forward rapidly and form these kinds of partnerships in which we buy some equity where we can capture some additional value and provide them with some resources to help develop this program. Especially in a down market, cash is king.¿

The deal with Northwest could produce an investigational new drug application by 2002, Drakeman said. In picking partnerships, he added, it¿s both the company and the target that make the difference.

¿We¿re continually looking for good targets that allow us to generate antibody therapeutics, and in doing so our strategy has been to find companies with whom we can collaborate in that development,¿ Drakeman said. ¿It¿s not just as if we¿re buying targets off the shelf and saying See you later!¿ We want to be partners with our partners. We want to find people who bring value to the collaboration, and that¿s measured both in targets and in their ability to provide support, both tangible and intangible.¿

Medarex4s core technology, the UltiMAb platform, generates fully human monoclonal antibodies with transgenic HuMAb Mouse technology.

Medarex¿s stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) closed at $19.70 Wednesday, up $1.59.

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