By Lisa Seachrist

Canadian generics giant Apotex Inc. extended its support of majority-owned Cangene Inc.¿s efforts to produce generic human recombinant proteins for three years, in a deal worth C$25 million (US$16.75 million).

Toronto-based Apotex is extending a five-year agreement, begun in 1995, that provided about US$22.1 million for Cangene, also of Toronto, to use its bacterial expression systems to develop generic versions of recombinant proteins. The new agreement ends in November 2003.

¿Cangene is one of the few profitable biotechnology companies out there,¿ said Jean Compton, manager of investor relations for Cangene, calling Apotex¿s extension ¿a vote of confidence.¿

The original deal between Cangene and Apotex took the form of a ¿reverse acquisition,¿ in which Rh Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Apotex, bought Cangene and assumed the Cangene name. As a result, privately held Apotex owns 86.6 percent of the shares of the public Cangene, which is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. About 7 million shares of Cangene common stock float on that market. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 1, 1995, p. 1.)

That deal included Leukotropin granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor, for which Cangene holds a U.S. process patent, and human growth hormone. Additional products that are included in the newly extended deal have not been disclosed.

Under the terms of the agreement, Apotex will reimburse Cangene for development expenses associated with the human recombinant proteins. In return, Apotex will receive certain marketing and revenue sharing opportunities, depending on the market. The two companies haven¿t fully characterized the marketing and revenue-sharing arrangements.

In addition to the human recombinant proteins, Cangene markets WinRho S/D, a hyperimmune polyclonal antibody aimed at Rh positive red blood cells. It is approved in the U.S. for the treatment of immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a blood disorder. WinRho S/D is used in other countries to treat hemolytic disease of the newborn, which is caused when a woman with Rh-positive blood is carrying a baby with Rh-negative blood type.

Cangene¿s stock (TSE:CNJ) closed Friday at $C4.70, down C$0.15.