By Matthew Willett

Medarex Inc. will pick up $5 million in Immusol Inc. equity as a part of their strategic alliance for the development of fully human antibody therapeutics.

The agreement calls for equal cost-sharing responsibility for development and commercialization of potential therapeutics developed by applying Princeton, N.J.-based Medarex's UltiMAb Human Antibody Development System to Immusol targets identified through its Inverse Genomics technology.

Medarex CEO Donald Drakeman called the deal a pure partnership, similar to the company's partnerships with Oxford Glycosciences plc, of Oxford, UK, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Tarrytown, N.Y.

"We really like being partners with our partners," Drakeman told BioWorld Today. "We like the idea of us and our partners sitting on the same side of the table, each trying to succeed with a common product. I think that's a very attractive way to develop products rather than having a buyer-seller relationship, to have a genuine partnership and take advantage of each others' strengths and work together."

He added that the relationship, which calls for revenue sharing through co-ownership of resulting products, decreases the risks involved in drug discovery and development.

"If you look at the odds of successful drug development, it's clear that the laws of probability say that you'd rather own half of 10 products than all of five products," he said. "Your shots on goal are doubled while your costs are the same."

Immusol officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday. The company is privately held.

Though the number of targets the companies will collaborate upon is undisclosed, Drakeman would confirm the partnership covers "a multitude of targets in a variety of disease areas."

He said San Diego-based Immusol's Inverse Genomics platform, which uses a library of 10 million ribozyme genes to discover and validate cause-and-effect relationships between the protein encoded by a gene and a therapeutic biological effect, fits well with his company's technology platform, UltiMAb, which is able to create any type of fully human antibody.

"Immusol's Inverse Genomics platform is a powerful tool for generating disease targets for an antibody therapeutic," he said. "We're very pleased to be collaborating with them on product development as well as in becoming a shareholder."

He said the UltiMAb platform is capable of handling any targets the collaboration might produce.

"We have the ability to access 100 percent of the human genes for making fully human antibodies," he said. "That's what gives us the power to generate antibodies of all different types. We've successfully made antibodies to a wide range of targets for diseases from cancer to infectious diseases to autoimmune and inflammatory conditions."

Medarex's stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) fell $2.375 Tuesday, closing at $25.187. n