By Mary Welch

Genome Therapeutics Corp. reached a second milestone — and received a payment — from Schering-Plough Corp. in their alliance to use genomics to discover new therapeutics for treating asthma.

Neither Genome Therapeutics, of Waltham, Mass., nor Schering-Plough, of Madison, N.J., disclosed the milestone or the payment.

The original 1996 deal, worth a potential $67 million, called for Genome Therapeutics to employ its high-throughput positional cloning, bioinformatics and genomics sequencing capabilities to identify genes and associated proteins that could be used by Schering-Plough to develop drugs. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 26, 1996, Special News Bulletin.)

So far, Genome Therapeutics has received $8 million from Schering-Plough, including the company's first milestone payment in February.

When Genome Therapeutics closed its 1997 fiscal year, Aug. 31, the company reported it had received $5.8 million from Schering-Plough, which represented 23 percent of the biotechnology firm's total revenues.

Under terms of the 1996 pact, Schering-Plough agreed to pay $22.5 million in licensing fees and research funds and $44.5 million in total milestone payments.

"Because of our agreement with Schering-Plough, we cannot say what the milestone we reached is," said Christopher Taylor, director of investor relations. "But we can say where we are in the research."

So far, the company has gathered an undisclosed number of family members with asthma for a broad genetic analysis. This gathering of family members was done with the University of Southampton, in the U.K., among other sites.

In addition, Genome Therapeutics finished constructing high-resolution linkage maps for new gene candidate regions, initiated high-resolution physical mapping and advanced positional cloning efforts — all of which are to identify genes involved in asthma.

"We utilize the DNA information from our family members and put it on a map, and see if there is any correlation between their DNA and the DNA of people who don't have asthma," said Fennel Eli, chief financial officer of Genome Therapeutics.

Taylor said so far no asthma-related gene has been identified.

Genome Therapeutics' stock (NASDAQ:GENE) closed Thursday at $6.50, up $0.25. *