LONDON - It may have a string of failed trials behind it, but British Biotech plc is building on its experience in clinical development to expand its portfolio. It has agreed to a collaboration with ImmunoGen Inc. to develop and commercialize ImmunoGen's huN901-DM1, an antibody-targeted cytotoxic for the treatment of small-cell lung cancer.

British Biotech, based in Oxford, UK, paid US$1.5 million for European and Japanese rights to the compound, and will be entitled to a milestone payment if it is approved in the U.S. The deal expands British Biotech's pipeline and broadens its scope in cancer beyond the existing focus on matrix metalloproteinases. For ImmunoGen, of Cambridge, Mass., the logic is to access British Biotech's clinical development skills.

Elliot Goldstein, CEO of British Biotech, said, "Innovative deal terms, combined with our clinical development and regulatory capabilities, have enabled us to obtain the commercialization rights to a novel anticancer agent in Europe and Japan."

The two companies will share responsibility for the development of huN901-DM1, currently in late preclinical development. ImmunoGen will complete preclinical development and manufacture the product. British Biotech will be responsible for conducting clinical trials, and for getting approval in all territories, as well as paying for clinical trials supplies.

HuN901-DM1 uses ImmunoGen's tumor-activated prodrug technology in which monoclonal antibodies are chemically linked to a cytotoxic. The chemical linking renders the cytotoxic inactive until it reaches the tumor site. In preclinical studies the compound eradicated small-cell lung cancer tumors, while the current treatments, cisplatin and etoposide, produced only temporary interruption of tumor growth.