By Karen Pihl-Carey

One day after announcing that it had completed the first assembly of the human genome, Celera Genomics entered a subscription agreement to provide access to four of its databases to Immunex Corp.

Terms of the five-year deal were not disclosed, but analyst Caroline Copithorne, of New York-based Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, said it likely is worth between $25 million and $50 million, similar to Celera's earlier subscription agreements. The Motley Fool, a company that offers stock market advice, however, reported that the agreement was a royalty-sharing deal, meaning it could be worth a whole lot more to Celera.

Celera did not return phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday. The company's stock (NYSE:CRA) closed Tuesday at $99.5, down $14.50, or 12.7 percent.

Immunex said Celera's databases will provide valuable tools for identifying important genes that play a role in the immune system.

"We felt like Celera had demonstrated with their fruit fly genome data that their shotgun approach had been validated, and the data they generated has been very highly regarded by the scientific community," said Carl March, vice president of biochemical sciences at Seattle-based Immunex. "In addition to that, over the past months, when they said they were going to reach a milestone in any given project, they hit it."

Through the agreement, Immunex will gain access to four of Celera's databases: the Human Gene Index; the Human Genome Database; the Drosophila Genome Database; and the Mouse Genome Database.

"Having access to the mouse data is going to be a great resource for us because many human diseases are modeled in mice," March told BioWorld Today.

March declined to comment on any terms of the deal, including whether royalties were involved. Copithorne said the company plans to provide financial details on its July 19th second quarter conference call.

Celera, of Rockville, Md., has five-year database subscription agreements with a unit of Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG; with Pharmacia & Upjohn, of Bridgewater, N.J.; and with Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., of Osaka, Japan. It also is providing Amgen Inc., of Thousand Oaks, Calif., five years of access to databases. J. Craig Venter, Celera's president and chief scientific officer, has said the company's five-year deals are in the $25 million to $50 million range.

In November, Celera entered into a subscription and collaborative gene discovery agreement with Pfizer Inc., of New York. Without disclosing terms, Venter then said the deal was "much bigger" than the company's previous agreements. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 23, 1999, p. 1.)

On Monday, Celera announced that it had completed the first assembly of the human genome, having sequenced 99 percent of it. The company now is moving into the analysis and annotation phase to better understand the function of the genes. It will focus efforts on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and proteomic analysis. (See BioWorld Today, June 27, 2000, p. 1.)

Immunex did not subscribe to Celera's SNP database, but has an option to subscribe to it in the future, March said. "As they begin to turn their focus into generation of a large SNP database, it may be in our best interest to take a look at that downstream," he said.

Analyst Eric Schmidt, of SG Cowen Securities Corp. in New York, said in a research note that Celera's deal with Immunex "will serve as an impetus to new collaborations as Celera has clearly demonstrated its capabilities."

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