BORNHEIM, Germany - MediGene AG intends to acquire San Diego-based NeuroVir Therapeutics Inc. in a move that would increase its clinical pipeline by two products, giving it five in development.

"We hopefully will have fulfilled all formal prerequisites for NeuroVir's full integration into our company by the end of January 2001," said Christine Bohner, spokeswoman for Martinsried, Germany-based MediGene.

The deal would involve about 1 million MediGene shares, valued at about US$77 million based on the stock price the day the deal was disclosed.

If all the products in the clinical pipeline succeed in registration this would mean potential peak sales of US$1.5 billion, an increase of 50 percent over peak potential sales of MediGene's three products. "These potential peak sales are not net present value," Bohner said. "There aren't any sufficient statistical data for biotech pipelines to get an estimation of success rate for each phase of clinical development.

"Of course, we want as much of the products' value for us as possible," Bohner said, adding that NeuroVir holds all the patents for its products and technologies. "This made NeuroVir very interesting for us."

NeuroVir to date has run its trials. G207 for treatment of glioblastoma and malignant brain tumors has completed Phase I, and Phase II is expected to start soon, Bohner said, and NV1020 against metastases of colorectal tumors is in Phase II.

MediGene's most advanced clinical project is Polyphenon E against genital warts. Phase II studies were completed in late spring, Bohner said, and Phase II/III studies should begin in the first quarter of 2001 at the latest. According to Bohner, MediGene in-licensed the product from Canadian company Epitome, of Halifax. Neither the value of the license agreement nor the number of participants in the clinical trials is being disclosed, she said.

Nor did she tell such figures for MediGene's Etomoxir. This product is being developed for heart insufficiency and congestive heart failure. It was licensed in from Byk Gulden of Konstanz, Germany, after Phase I studies were completed. "Phase II studies should start at the end of this year," Bohner said. "We have a lot of offerings by big pharma for partnering in the clinical studies, but we'll do Phase II on our own. We'll check thoroughly in which projects we involve partners and which we run alone. We do not want to be a license and technology supplier only."

One project MediGene has a big pharma partner for is the development of a therapeutic vaccine against papilloma-induced tumors. The start of the Phase I/II studies was announced two weeks ago. The project was licensed to Berlin-based Schering AG in late 1999 in a deal valued up to $52 million. The deal has provisions for milestone payments and potential royalties on sales.