REHOVOT, Israel ¿ The American Red Cross, the largest provider of blood, plasma and tissue products in the U.S., has entered into its first joint therapeutic development project with an Israeli biopharmaceutical company.

The deal is with Kamada Ltd., of Rehovot. The initial agreement for cooperation regarding development, manufacturing and marketing was initiated at the beginning of 1999, and confirmed by the U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRDF) Board of Governors last month. The collaborators intend to develop a new injectable plasma therapeutic. The Red Cross will invest an anticipated $3 million over the next three years including $500,000 from BIRDF, which helped broker the strategic partnership.

¿The project focuses on the development of an innovative plasma therapeutic to treat a congenital blood disorder affecting thousands of individuals each year,¿ said Kamada CEO David Tsur, who declined to elaborate due to commercial secrecy needs.

Once developed and approved, the drug will be manufactured by Kamada, which specializes in plasma derivatives, therapeutic proteins, and enzymes for parenteral injectables and intravenous solutions. The Red Cross (ARC) will handle distribution and marketing in the U.S.

BIRDF was established by both governments to broker and support joint partnerships. It does not receive equity in either company and only gets repayments if a project reaches commercial success, based on actual sales revenues.

¿The foundation is supporting this project because it contributes to the integration of the Israeli drug industry into the international marketplace,¿ said Dov Hershberg, BIRD¿s Executive Director. ¿This is a vibrant combination: Kamada¿s experience, R&D know-how, and the company¿s blood product manufacturing ability (which will be used as raw material to produce the drug) plus ARC¿s vast marketing network.¿

Last year, the Red Cross collected more than 6 million units of blood donated by volunteers. Donated blood is manufactured into different blood components and products including plasma therapeutics.

¿As part of our mission, we are committed to developing new therapeutics to help people live longer healthier lives. Our relationship with Kamada, with support from the BIRD Foundation, will help us achieve our mission,¿ said Chris Lamb, CEO for the ARC Plasma Services.

Kamada, established in 1990, employs 75 people and distributes to about 20 countries.

¿This strategic cooperation between Kamada and the American Red Cross hopes to produce a therapeutic of significantly higher quality with respect to purity and safety, at a cost that is much less than competitive products available on the market today,¿ Tsur told BioWorld International.