LONDON - Cambridge Antibody Technology plc (CAT) extended its agreement with Human Genome Sciences Inc., entering an exclusive development partnership on B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS), a target discovered by HGS.

John Aston, CAT's finance director, told BioWorld International, "This is a natural extension of our first deal, agreed in August 1999, for CAT to develop antibodies against targets chosen by HGS. BLyS was the first target.

"Now HGS is going exclusive with us on this target and vice versa. We know that they also did a deal with Abgenix Inc., so they have looked at both technologies and picked us."

This extension has triggered the payment of an undisclosed up-front fee, as specified in the previous deal.

CAT, based in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, said it has produced more than 1,000 distinct human antibodies that bind to BLyS, in record time.

"The comparison we draw is that in our first deal with BASF it took two years to find an anti-TNF alpha antibody," Aston said. "In six months we have produced over 1,000 antibodies that bind to BLyS. In other words, we are delivering more leads and higher quality leads."

BLyS stimulates the production of antibodies. Research by HGS indicated that higher than normal blood levels of BLyS may play a role in several autoimmune and neoplastic disorders. HGS will select one of the CAT antibodies for clinical trials, planned for next year.

"Our expenditure on this project is at an end," Aston said. "HGS will do all the preclinical and clinical work, and they will decide what disease area to work in. We are happy for HGS to get on with it. Our business model says that CAT's technology has such broad application that we rely on deals where we hand out exclusivity on targets and the partner bears the burden of the cost.

"We do have our own programs, for example, ophthalmology, where we will get more value, but we just can't afford to exploit everything alone."

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