PARIS - Immuno-Designed Molecules (IDM) signed a licensing and distribution agreement with Medarex Inc. that gives the Paris-based company the right to use certain therapeutic products developed by Medarex.

As part of the deal, Medarex, of Princeton, N.J., will increase its equity stake in IDM from 6 percent to 34 percent, part of which is being assigned to it in exchange for the property rights it has granted IDM and part of which is being paid for in cash to the tune of $2 million, a company spokesperson told BioWorld International.

At the same time, IDM is engaged in another funding round that will bring it a further injection of "more than EUR25 million (US$21 million)." The operation is separate from the deal with Medarex, and IDM is hoping to close the funding "within the coming weeks."

The Medarex products covered by the agreement are antibodies MDX-210, MDX-220 and MDX-447. IDM has obtained worldwide rights for the utilization of MDX-210, which is the antibody already used in its lead product, a cell therapy for cancer based on the use of monocyte-derived activated killer (MAK) cells. Known as IDM-1, the product delivers MAK cells associated with bispecific antibodies, and the therapy is now in Phase III trials for the treatment of ovarian cancer. Two other MAK-based cell therapies, IDM-2 and IDM-4, are currently in Phase II trials in two other indications, bladder cancer and chronic lymphoid leukemia.

The rights IDM has obtained to the other two antibodies are more limited but cover all indications, although the agreement specifies that MDX-220 is to be developed for the treatment of colon and prostate cancer and MDX-447 for tumors overexpressing the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFr).

IDM's CEO, Jean-Pierre Romet-Lemonne, said the deal "gives the company full property rights to several cell therapies that are currently in clinical development . . . and strengthens our range of antibody-based products being developed in tandem with our anticancer vaccine line." Medarex CEO Donald Drakeman said the agreement would enable the two companies to "work together on the development of therapeutic products for the treatment of cancer. IDM will use its capacity for developing cell therapy products to accompany some of our products up to commercialization."

In addition, the agreement assigns distribution rights for specific geographic areas to each company. IDM will thus receive royalties on the sale of the MDX-210 antibody in Europe outside the cell therapy sector, as well as on the sale of another antibody, MDX-RA, which is currently being developed for the prevention of secondary cataracts.

This deal finalizes the agreement in principle concluded between the two companies in February, modifying it in some important respects. IDM had originally negotiated rights to two other antibodies, MDX-33 and MDX-22, as well as to some Medarex research programs.