By Randall Osborne

Immunomedics Inc. finalized its joint venture with Beckman Coulter, forming IBCPharmaceuticals LLC to develop cancer treatments.

Immunomedics will contribute to the venture one of its antibody patents as well as relatedtechnological know-how, plus expertise in commercialization. Beckman Coulter, ofFullerton, Calif., brings to the table its antibody targeting technology, known as theAffinity Enhancement System.

"In this particular case, it's a big deal because it falls right into the enhancement system,"said Cynthia Sullivan, director of operations for Morris Plains, N.J.-based Immunomedics,where the joint venture will be located initially.

The system "allows you to get more antibodies to your site, more recognition of theantigen you're expressing," Sullivan told BioWorld Today. "It essentially bringsmore drug to the site. In theory, you'd need a lower dose."

The joint venture will develop cancer therapies based on bispecific antibodies, which aredesigned to bind to two different receptors. Injected into a patient, the bispecific antibodyseeks out and binds to the cancer cells. Then comes a second injection of the actualtherapeutic, which attaches to the free arm of the bispecific antibody — thusselectively killing the cancer cells and leaving healthy tissue unaffected.

Immunomedics' first product, CEA-Scan, is an in vivo diagnostic imaging agentcomposed of a monoclonal antibody fragment labeled with technetium-99m for detectionof the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), expressed by colon cancer cells and many othertumor cells. The FDA approved it in 1996.

The company's second imaging product, LeukoScan, is designed for detecting boneinfection. It has been approved for sale in Europe and is under review by the FDA.

Earlier this year, Immunomedics ended its marketing and distribution deals for CEA-Scanwith St. Louis-based Mallinckrodt Inc. and beefed up its own sales force. (SeeBioWorld Today, Feb. 12, 1998, p. 1.)

Immunomedics has other imaging products and two therapeutic products in Phase II trials.As of March 31, the company had $7.7 million in cash, with a net loss of $3.3 million forthe first quarter.

Its stock (NASDAQ:IMMU) closed Monday at $4.625, down $0.25. *