By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

European companies Gemini Genomics plc and Genmab A/S entered a collaboration to develop products for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

The alliance combines Gemini's clinical and genetic resources with its bioinformatics systems and Genmab's technologies to develop antibody-based drugs and diagnostics.

As part of the collaboration, the companies equally will share product rights and costs, said Lisa Drakeman, CEO of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Genmab.

"We hope to develop important new antibody products for serious unmet medical needs for big markets, and we are really excited about working with a company of the caliber of Gemini," Drakeman said.

Genmab will use its fully human antibody technology in combination with its broad antibody development capabilities, including a diverse array of biologic assays and animal disease models, to generate and test fully human antibodies to novel disease targets discovered by Cambridge, UK-based Gemini.

"The idea here is that Gemini will move into product development, so they take these exciting new targets and we start doing the biology and make these antibodies," she said. "The nice thing about antibodies is that we can do them rapidly and for a reasonable cost, and we can get a new antibody in the clinic in under two years for a cost of around $2 million, which is a real advantage over new chemical entities. Plus, antibodies have safety advantages; they are typically very well tolerated, unlike new chemical entities."

Genmab will share certain costs and rights with Princeton, N.J.-based Medarex Inc., via a license agreement between the two companies that gives Genmab use of Medarex's transgenic mouse technology.

Founded in February 1999, Genmab became a public company in October and has products in development to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Genmab's commercial opportunities are based on research conducted by companies such as Immunex Corp., Oxford GlycoSciences plc, Eos Biotechnology Inc. and Medarex, including its own laboratories.

Gemini's research integrates clinical data and detailed genetic information from a range of human populations, including twins, disease-affected families, isolated populations and drug trial subjects. The company invests in bioinformatics technologies to apply these resources to the acceleration of disease gene identification, target discovery and drug development.