BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany - MorphoSys AG last week signed collaboration agreements with Centocor Inc. and Biogen Inc. The Centocor deal is worth EUR22 million (US$20.9 million). Financial details on the Biogen deal were not disclosed.

Centocor, of Malvern, Pa., has an option on up to 30 therapeutic target molecules against which Martinsried, Germany-based MorphoSys will make optimized fully human antibodies using HuCAL, its human combinatorial antibody library. It is a modular construction system, which combines genes for antibodies' variable binding sites. Using this technology, MorphoSys said it can generate 10 billion synthetic human antibodies with a hit rate of 95 percent.

Centocor, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., paid EUR3 million up front.

"Centocor committed to provide seven target molecules," MorphoSys spokeswoman Lisa Richert told BioWorld International. The other 23 target molecules are optional subjects to antibody generation, she said.

"For Centocor it is the same price of EUR19 million in license fees and committed research and development support over the five-year term of the agreement," she said. "Making all 30 targets for us includes the chance of having more options on milestone payments and royalties by products launched or to be launched. Royalties and milestone fees are subject to additional payments outside the EUR22 million deal."

Included in the contract, in turn, is access for Centocor to HuCAL to identify new disease-associated genes, which may become targets for future drug development, Richert said. To this end, MorphoSys will install the HuCAL technology at Centocor, with future potential installations at J&J subsidiaries Janssen Research Foundation and R. W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute.

With Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen, MorphoSys agreed to validate drug targets in Biogen's genomics programs, MorphoSys said. Biogen will provide the gene sequences for the targets and MorphoSys will validate whether they are associated with disease. MorphoSys receives an up-front access fee and R&D funding.