HAMBURG, Germany - MorphoSys AG plans to list on Germany's high-tech stock exchange, Neuer Markt, within the next few months. Already the company has been converted to a corporation.

Last week MorphoSys, of Munich, disclosed the termination of a collaboration with Pharmacia & Upjohn, of London, and reported entering a new deal with DuPont Pharmaceutical Co., of Wilmington, Del.

Set up in 1992, MorphoSys, which uses combinatorial biology techniques, has acquired a strong position in drug discovery research. Its human combinatorial antibody library, rapid screening tools and development of mini-antibodies have contributed to rapid growth; MorphoSys is considered one of the most well-established German biotechnology companies.

After appointing Dave Lemus chief financial officer in February, MorphoSys was converted into a stock corporation that will be traded soon on the Frankfurt-based Neuer Markt - the German equivalent of U.S.-based Nasdaq. Lemus formerly was controller and operations manager at Hoffmann-La Roche, of Basel, Switzerland.

“The New Market is very well suited to our needs. It has proven to be a very strong growth market, where investors can find a good exit to high-tech companies,“ Simon Moroney, CEO, told BioWorld International. “Besides, no other pharmaceutical-biotech company is listed there yet, so we hope to be in a very good position to raise the money we need for further expansion.“

MorphoSys currently employs a staff of more than 50 and has plans to extend its technology.

Moroney said expansion plans have not been affected by the suspension of a collaboration MorphoSys entered with Pharmacia & Upjohn in March 1997. (See BioWorld International, March 12, 1997, p. 1.)

Under terms of the two-part research alliance, MorphoSys worked on identification of new therapeutic targets and discovery of lead compounds for Pharmacia & Upjohn's program to fight inflammatory diseases.

Moroney said termination of the collaboration was not unexpected. In December 1997 Pharmacia & Upjohn decided to sell Lund Research Center, of Lund, Sweden, a facility with nearly 200 employees, to Active Biotech AB, of Malmö, a Swedish biotech startup focusing on human immune defense research.

Together with the Lund center, Active Biotech acquired from Pharmacia & Upjohn a number of projects in various clinical stages targeting asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Loss Of Pharmacia & Upjohn 'No Surprise'

“Considering the thorough restructuring of Pharmacia & Upjohn and the selling of its anti-inflammatory business, the termination was no surprise to us,“ Moroney said. Pharmacia & Upjohn confirmed that all goals, which were set for the first stage of the collaboration, ending in February 1999, were completed successfully.

With DuPont, MorphoSys has found a new partner that will make use of the technology in its pharmaceutical research and development program.

DuPont has acquired a license to the human combinatorial antibody library, which rapidly and reliably generates antibodies. The technique will be used in-house by DuPont to identify, characterize and validate new disease targets and drugs.

In addition, DuPont has secured an option to develop specific antibodies for therapeutic, diagnostic and screening applications. The company has research programs in cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV and central nervous system and inflammation disorders. Financial details were not disclosed. *

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