By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Human Genome Sciences Inc. (HGS) said its Japanese consortium partner, Takeda Chemicals Inc., has chosen about 100 targets for small-molecule and antibody drug discovery.

"HGS retains equal rights to use small-molecule and antibody targets for our own purposes," said William Haseltine, chairman and CEO of the Rockville, Md.-based firm, which is expected to disclose the news today. "This doesn't take them off the table for us. We can't outlicense them, but we can use them for ourselves."

Although specifics are not being disclosed, the targets chosen using HGS's genomics technology are described as relevant to "several" therapeutic areas in which Takeda is working. Those areas include diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, bone and joint diseases, central nervous system disorders, urogenital diseases and allergy.

"It's a very broad range of indications [covered by the targets]," Haseltine told BioWorld Today on Monday. "So far, Takeda has not made any selections for protein therapeutics, but other partners have. And there's very little overlap between those selected by our partners, including the most recent ones. They're all doing independent research, and coming up with their own selections."

Osaka, Japan-based Takeda, the largest pharmaceutical firm in that country, became a member of HGS's Human Gene Consortium in 1995. Others in the group are GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London; Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J.; Merck KGaA, of Darmstadt, Germany; and Synthelabo SA, of Montrouge, France.

Under the terms of the consortium, HGS provides access to its technology and is entitled to royalties, milestone payments and, in some cases, co-promotion rights, on products developed using the technology and sold by its partners, which share genetic sequences and biological data among themselves.

Members of the consortium have agreed to unblock patents for each other as part of the deal, which ends June 30.

"We're [then] able to use our technology to initiate new projects for our own programs, without obligations, and we'll be free to enter new partnerships," Haseltine said.

"Reciprocal obligations will continue," he said. "HGS will have rights to product development milestones, royalty payments, and we'll have co-promotion rights on everybody's products. That part of the agreement extends 10 years from launch of the product, or 20 years from discovery, whichever is longest."

The consortium quit taking members in 1996.

"Early partners are getting the early payoffs," Haseltine said. "[GlaxoSmithKline] has said for a long time that almost all of their new drugs will have genomics as the basis, and we've had a very significant impact on the research and subsequent development of GlaxoSmith-Kline's pipeline."

The consortium "has worked for other partners, as well," Haseltine said, although he acknowledged that the later members of the group - Merck, Synthelabo and Schering-Plough - have not made much noise about their progress.

"Over time, you'll hear about it," Haseltine said.

HGS's stock (NASDAQ:HGSI) closed Monday at $43.687, up 50 cents. n

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