By Karen Pihl-Carey

Medarex Inc. formed a strategic alliance with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to discover, develop and commercialize human antibodies as therapeutics for numerous indications.

By combining Medarex's HuMAb-Mouse technology with Regeneron's Targeted Genomics, Functionomics and Designer Protein Therapeutics platforms, the companies expect to develop the antibodies from more than 20 initial targets.

"We are combining Regeneron's Targeted Genomics and other abilities to identify disease targets and our ability to create fully human monoclonal antibodies and put them rapidly into clinical trials," said Donald Drakeman, president and CEO of Medarex. "We'll share the costs, and we'll share the ownership of the products."

The companies will split profits of commercialized products equally. The alliance does not consist of any up-front, milestone or royalty payments, as the two companies will share preclinical and clinical responsibilities. They also will jointly market any drugs that result from the collaboration. The initial targets include growth factors, cytokines and receptors. The companies expect to add additional targets in the future.

Medarex, of Princeton, N.J., and Regeneron, of Tarrytown, N.Y., are looking at developing the antibody products for numerous indications. They encompass most of the major therapeutic categories, Drakeman told BioWorld Today.

"It's an opportunity for us to build on our technology to create a very broad pipeline of products to move all the way to commercialization," he said.

Earlier this month, Medarex raised net proceeds of about $388 million in a stock offering of 2.4 million shares. The company planned to use the proceeds to fund the in-licensing of potential therapeutic targets and the development of fully human antibody-based products using these targets. (See BioWorld Today, March 6, 2000, p. 1.)

In February, Medarex entered into a strategic alliance with Eos Biotechnology Inc., of South San Francisco, to develop and commercialize at least six and up to nine genomics-derived antibody-based therapeutic products for the treatment or prevention of life-threatening disease sthat may include breast, colorectal and prostate cancers. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 15, 2000, p. 1.)

The company also recently moved its ovarian cancer drug candidate, MDX-210, into Phase III trials. Its first fully human antibody product, MDXS-CD4, entered clinical trials last year for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Medarex has other products in Phase I and II trials for cancer tumor and acute myeloid leukemia patients.

Drakeman said Medarex has not established a timeline for when to bring antibody products developed with Regeneron into the clinic, but he believes it will be within a year.

"We recently inaugurated our T-12 development program, which is our ability to move from target to trial in as little as 12 months," he said. "So we are optimistic about moving numerous products rapidly into the clinic."

Regeneron filed to sell 4 million shares in a public offering last week. The company also announced a collaboration with Emisphere Technologies Inc., of Tarrytown, N.Y., to develop the oral version of Axokine, a potential treatment for obesity and its complications. (See BioWorld Today, March 10, 2000, p. 2.)

Regeneron was in an SEC-imposed quiet period and could not comment Friday.

Regeneron's stock (NASDAQ:REGN) closed Friday at $40, down $1.06, while Medarex's stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) closed at $143, down $23.64, or 14 percent.