By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

In a $9 million cash transaction, Abgenix Inc. acquired IntraImmune Therapies Inc., developers of technologies that allow antibodies to gain access to intracellular targets.

The technology will enable Abgenix to immunize its XenoMouse with targets from the inside of the cell, "so there really are no areas of the body now that we cannot address with antibodies," according to Kurt Leutzinger, chief financial officer of Fremont, Calif.-based Abgenix.

Abgenix developed XenoMouse technology to enable the rapid generation of high-affinity, fully human antibody product candidates to essentially any disease target appropriate for antibody therapy. Abgenix uses the XenoMouse technology to help build a product portfolio through the establishment of licensing arrangements with other companies and through the development of its own products.

The use of fully human antibodies derived from XenoMouse combined with IntraImmune's technologies could allow the full potential of intracellular targeting to be realized, Abgenix said.

As part of the acquisition, the operations of IntraImmune, a privately held Cambridge, Mass.-based company, will be phased out as work on its technologies are transferred to Abgenix. IntraImmune's technologies, developed by scientific founder Wayne Marasco of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, are the subject of issued patents and pending patent applications.

To account for the purchase transaction of IntraImmune, Abgenix will incur a small one-time charge in the fourth quarter and will amortize the remainder of the purchase price as goodwill, Abgenix said.

Abgenix's stock (NASDAQ:ABGX) closed Wednesday at $72.50, up $8.56, or 13 percent.

Thomas Dietz, director of research at San Francisco-based Pacific Growth Equities, said in a research note that Abgenix's technology acquisitions are positive and he anticipates that the company will improve its ability to identify and commercialize fully human antibodies internally and for discovery and development partners.

"While the technology is anticipated to require significant work to fully realize its potential, it may be useful in permitting Abgenix to expand its potential targets to include intracellular antigens, as well as within Abgenix's target validation efforts, which seek to identify targets of importance from genomic efforts," Dietz wrote.

Abgenix has a deep milestone calendar over the next 12 months in its multiple proprietary product candidate clinical trials, Dietz wrote. "We expect Abgenix will continue to take advantage of its strong balance sheet and stock price to access new product opportunities and/or technologies through in-licensing or acquisition."

Last week the company completed its acquisition of ImmGenics Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, for about $77 million in Abgenix stock. ImmGenics' technology focuses on screening antibodies directly from B cells rather than from hybridoma cell lines, providing a larger pool of candidates than traditional technology. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 28, 2000.)

Also, Abgenix in early November raised $230 million through the placement of 3.3 million newly issued shares at $70 apiece.