By Mary Welch

In a deal worth up to $15 million, Genset granted exclusive licensing rights for vaccine development using the Chlamydia pneumoniae and Chlamydia trachomatis L2 genomic data to American Home Products Corp. (AHP).

Genset granted an exclusive worldwide royalty-bearing license to its expertise and patent applications covering the entire Chlamydia pneumoniae and Chlamydia trachomatis L2 genomic sequenes for the research, development and commercialization of vaccines.

In exchange, AHP's division, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, of Radnor, Pa. - through its Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines unit - will pay up to $15 million in an initial, undisclosed license fee as well as milestone payments, plus royalties.

Pascal Brandys, chairman and CEO of Paris-based Genset, said the deal proves Genset has "a good patent position on a major pathogen." The company's U.S. headquarters is in La Jolla, Calif.

"The key is to make the selection of the pathogen, and make the sequencing work," Brandys said. "What is particularly exciting is that there now seem to be more diseases besides infectious diseases that Chlamydia pneumoniae plays a role in."

Chlamydia pneumoniae and Chlamydia trachomatis are intracellular eubacteria that infect a number of eukaryotic cells and are responsible for a vast number of diseases. Chlamydia pneumoniae once was assumed to be exclusively a human respiratory pathogen, but recent studies indicate that it may also be an agent of coronary artery disease.

Genset retains rights for diagnostic, small molecule, therapeutic protein applications, as well as gene therapy and cell therapy applications of the Chlamydiae genomic data.

The company applies large-scale industrial techniques to sequencing and positional cloning. It combines these two approaches with four new programs: high-resolution mapping; 5-prime sequence and regulatory region identification, which is a method to readily identify genes; database and biointelligence analysis software; and functional polymorphism scanning, which is a way to quickly identify genetic mutations.

Douglas Petkus, spokesman for Wyeth-Ayerst, said Genset's technology is expected to help scientists "understand the genomic sequencing and break down the structure of the bacteria," in order to design a vaccine that induces an immune response.

Genset's stock (NASDAQ:GENXY) closed Thursday at $28.125, up $1. *