By Matthew Willett

Oxford GlycoSciences plc added to its list of pharmaceutical partners with a proteomics discovery deal with Glaxo Wellcome plc aimed toward disease-specific biomarkers.

OGS will employ its industrial-scale high-throughput protein identification and isolation technology to detect and identify disease-related proteins related to areas of interest to Glaxo.

OGS, of Oxford, UK, also expects to close a $215 million international offering Thursday. Following that offering the company, which trades on the London Stock Exchange, is expected to also be listed on Nasdaq.

The company, founded in 1988 by Oxford University, isn't divulging financial details of the deal with Glaxo, however, its similarity in structure and scope places it in the same ballpark as the company's other big pharma deals.

Existing Oxford proteomics collaborations with industry big dogs include alliances with Pfizer Inc., of New York; Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany; Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J.; diaDexus, of Santa Clara, Calif.; and Incyte Genomics Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.

In the $50 million 1998 deal with Pfizer, OGS struck a similar bargain to identify disease-specific proteins as potential diagnostics, clinical markers and drug targets in Alzheimer's disease.

OGS Chief Financial Officer Stephen Parker said the main difference in the deals is that the Glaxo deal, aimed at streamlining Glaxo drug discovery efforts, is the first with clinical usage in mind.

"I think it's very much an alliance in line with the future of the company," Parker told BioWorld Today. "Our strategy has been to establish the proteomics, then we wanted to exploit that technology base, and this is very much that stage. We want to exploit that base. What's interesting about this deal is that this is the first deal we've struck that's been with the clinical people rather than the discovery people."

Glaxo will fund the research in return for access to the disease-specific protein markers for use in its drug discovery programs. However, OGS will retain commercialization rights to the biomarkers and associated diagnostics.

Under the terms of the agreement, Glaxo may obtain exclusive right to negotiate for commercialization rights to those diagnostics. The agreement also includes milestone payments for OGS and royalties on future products.

OGS will focus on nine disease areas specified by Glaxo: osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; dyslipidemia; liver fibrosis; epithelial carcinoma, including breast cancer, colon cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer; acute migraine; hypertension; metabolic syndrome X; and unipolar depression.

The deal includes rights for diagnostics tests resulting from the research, a downstream revenue potential Parker said is an important part of the deal.

"If you have a biomarker, you can immediately reformulate the thing into a diagnostic that could, ideally, at the point of care, be used by a primary care physician as a part of his or her diagnosis, and that certainly is the bigger market."

Parker said the collaboration should run about two or three years, with the first phase of the collaboration - isolating proteins from 919 Glaxo-provided samples of urine or serum - taking the majority of the time. After identifying candidate proteins, Glaxo can elect to move compounds forward, triggering a milestone payment.

Separately, he said clinical trials for OGS' most advanced candidate, Vevesca, one to establish dose dependency and another with the compound in combination therapies, should be completed next year in time to file a new drug application for the Gaucher's disease therapeutic in mid-2001.

Oxford's 1998 deal with Incyte called for them to co-develop proteomics databases, and included a $5 million equity investment in OGS by Incyte. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 15, 1998.)