By Matthew Willett

Eos Biotechnology Inc. and Biogen Inc. said they will collaborate in a multi-year target validation and development program focused on breast cancer therapeutics.

Eos will receive an undisclosed up-front payment, a $5 million equity investment, royalties on products from the collaboration marketed by Biogen, and milestone payments for delivery of targets. The deal includes an option for Eos to produce fully human antibodies against validated targets from the collaboration.

In total, the deal could be worth up to $55 million for Eos, which will use a nearly complete human genome coded to an Affymetrix GeneChip array to compare cancerous cell gene expression to normal cell gene expression, a process already under way, said Richard Murray, Eos' vice president of biological research.

Eos and Affymetrix Inc. have been collaborating since May 1998 under a series of agreements centered on the GeneChip technology, array systems that allow for high- throughput analyses of DNA sequences. Affymetrix has an equity stake in Eos.

The Biogen collaboration, one of South San Francisco-based Eos' largest, hinges on multiple targets Eos can provide Biogen for development and distribution. Biogen will handle research and development costs.

"We acquire breast tumor samples, and we'll look for the activity of the genes," Murray said, "to see what's turned on and what's turned off. Then we'll compare that to the profile of normal human tissue and normal cell types. The differences in the results shows us genes that are specific to the cancer cells, and once we've identified those we'll proceed to investigate those molecules that appear to be selective to the cancer cells, and from that form a basis for targets for therapeutic applications."

Biogen describes the deal as further commitment to the oncology research field.

"Breast cancer is a large marketplace and one that needs improvement. This is an opportunity," Biogen spokeswoman Kathryn Bloom told BioWorld Today. "Eos has already demonstrated its ability to identify genomics-derived targets, and they have the capacity to survey the entire human genome in a high-throughput manner. We're looking at other oncology deals - this isn't the only one - but we're very pleased about it."

Murray said the deal will take advantage of Biogen's established drug development infrastructure.

"As we get further down the road, things get more expensive for us," Murray said. "Biogen's experience and infrastructure and ability to move proteins and antibodies into manufacture and into the clinic is really attractive."

In the future, he said, Eos could take advantage of similar research techniques in the prostate, colorectal and lung cancer areas.

"We've worked hard to set up the flexibility in our infrastructure within Eos to accommodate many cancers," he said. " We've gone down that road not only with Biogen, but with others, because we're quite interested in both this type of partnership and in building our process further."

In June, Eos struck a deal for cancer vaccine targets with Aventis Pasteur. (See BioWorld Today, June 7, 2000, p. 1.) n

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