By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Caliper Technologies Corp. have teamed up to develop Caliper's microfluidics technology Lab Chip specifically to overcome the bottlenecks in genomics drug discovery.

The two-year collaboration, with an option for a third year built into the deal, is comprised of two parts, the first being an early access program to Caliper technologies. The second part of the deal includes a dedicated effort to develop the technology to increase the productivity and efficiency of target validation, ligand identification and platform-wide configuration of analytical assays utilizing cellular and biochemical approaches.

"This is really a collaboration about technology," said Lena Wu, senior manager, business development, research and technology for Millennium. "Millennium is gaining very early access to the technology and Caliper is really allowing us to set the pace and direction for how to develop these tools."

The two companies are not disclosing the financial terms of the agreement. The deal does provide for very early-stage Caliper technologies to be delivered to Millennium for product development. The collaboration provides Millennium with the right to use all of the technology products developed for its drug discovery efforts, while Mountain View, Calif.-based Caliper will have the rights to commercialize those technologies.

"The TAP program allows companies early access to our technology, and Millennium is our fourth customer," said Jane Green, senior director of corporate communications for Caliper. "What is unique about this arrangement is Millennium will participate in developing novel applications for our microfluidics technology."

Microfluidics is a technology that shrinks the laboratory into channels held on a disposable chip. All of the chemical reactions take place in the nanoliter volumes held within the channels on Caliper's proprietary LabChip. The reagents are moved through the channels via applied electricity, pressure and vacuum.

The chips reduce the volumes of reagents needed up to 100,000-fold and can accelerate experiments by 10-fold, depending on the application, by combining miniaturization, automation and integration of processes.

Caliper views the collaboration as an acceleration of its entry into genomics applications. "Obviously, we are very happy about this collaboration," Green said. "It's the first step in our long-term strategy of distributive applications development."

Wu said Millennium's primary interest in the collaborations was the opportunity to develop new applications for screening drug targets. "We feel with this technology we can address the bottlenecks in drug development facing the entire industry. The most unique feature is that it's an incredibly flexible technology that can be adapted." Wu said. "As a result, we can use less protein for target validation. It can be very, very difficult to make some of these proteins. Being able to use less material is where there is a lot of value to this technology."

Millennium's stock (NASDAQ:MLNM) closed Monday at $143 a share, up $3.375. Caliper's stock (NASDAQ:CALP) closed at $102.937 a share, down $3.062.