By Brady Huggett

Atrix Laboratories Inc. signed a $20 million European marketing agreement with MediGene AG for Atrix's Leuprogel products, giving Atrix access to 75 percent of the world market for prostate cancer hormonal treatments. But David Bethune, CEO and chairman of Atrix, said that's not enough. He wants it all.

"We have serious discussions going on for the rest of the world," Bethune said from the Tucker Anthony Sutro Health Care Conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif. "We are talking to people in the Middle East and the Pacific Rim and South America. I don't plan on stopping at 75 percent. I intend to market this all over the world. I want 100 percent of it."

Atrix already put $6 million "in the bank," Bethune said, a combined amount from the $2 million up-front payment and another $4 million from the sale of Atrix stock to Martinsried, Germany-based MediGene. The remaining $14 million depends on various milestones.

"In addition to that, we will get an excellent royalty on every dollar of sales and a manufacturing profit," he said.

Atrix, of Fort Collins, Colo., with a $60 million marketing deal for North America with Sanofi-Synthelabo, of Paris, already has a foot in a $1.3 billion market for Leuprogel. That, together with the MediGene deal, gives Atrix potentially $80 million from Leuprogel, before tacking on royalties. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 10, 2001.)

There was roughly $500 million in European sales for luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone therapy for prostate cancer in 2000. Now, Atrix's product nears entry to a potential billion-dollar market, a first for Atrix.

"We've never even participated in a $100 million market," Bethune said. "Atridox is on the market, but I'm not sure that is even a $50 million market." Atridox is an antibiotic treatment for chronic adult periodontitis.

Leuprogel products use Atrix's Atrigel drug delivery system to provide sustained release of leuprolide acetate. Leuprogel is injected subcutaneously into the body, where it solidifies and is bioabsorbed over time.

Bethune said MediGene licensed the 1-month, 3-month and 4-month versions of Leuprogel, and will make the decision on whether to pick up the option for a six-month product that is being formulated and could be out by summer. Also, MediGene has an option for a formulation for endometriosis, when it is ready for marketing. The decision to go with MediGene, Bethune said, was the right one.

"They are aggressive and energetic and an emerging company," he said. "You don't need heavy-duty clout in Europe. What you need is targeting and brain power. We chose a small, fast-footed company to sell our product."

MediGene assumes regulatory responsibility for the product in Europe. The German company anticipates getting Leuprogel on the European market in the second half of 2003.

Atrix submitted a new drug application to the FDA for Leuprogel 1-month for advanced prostate cancer in March. Leuprogel 3-month is in Phase III studies and should bring a filing by 2001's close. Bethune said to expect a filing for Leuprogel 4-month in early 2002. (See BioWorld Today, March 28, 2001.)

Atrix's stock (NASDAQ:ATRX) gained $1.375 Thursday, or about 12 percent, to close at $12.75. n

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