By Randall Osborne

To save its resources for an ongoing legal battle, CellPro Inc. has agreed with Corixa Corp. to end their collaboration to develop ex vivo therapies for cancer.

"They're going to have a cash-flow problem, " said Michelle Burris, vice president and chief financial officer of Seattle-based Corixa. "This is a nice way to be able to handle the situation."

Bothell, Wash.-based CellPro and Corixa teamed in November 1995 for a program in which CellPro funded research to identify and optimize methods to grow and activate tumor antigen-specific lymphocytes and other antigen-presenting cells outside the body. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 16, 1996, p. 1.)

The agreement covered the use of Corixa's cancer antigens, microsphere delivery and adjuvant technologies. Last year, funds received from the pact accounted for less than 10 percent of Corixa's total revenue from third-party research and development agreements.

With the end of the deal, all rights to adoptive immunotherapy technology revert to Corixa.

CellPro's legal conflict is a patent infringement suit, which the company lost last year and is appealing. The case centers on two patents covering CD34 monoclonal antibodies and stem-cell selection technology developed at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, and licensed to Becton Dickinson & Co., of Franklin Lakes, N.J., and Baxter Healthcare Corp., of Deerfield, Ill. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 3, 1998, p. 1.)

As part of the appeal, CellPro has been ordered by the court to escrow its revenues, Burris said.

No new partners are on the horizon, she added.

"We haven't been in negotiations with anyone, and there aren't many [companies working in the area covered by the CellPro agreement], " Burris said.

But the program was not high on Corixa's priority list.

"Corixa is a vaccine company, first and foremost, " Burris said. The CellPro research was "ancillary, for lack of a better term. That's not to say we're not going to pursue partnering."

CellPro's stock (NASDAQ:CPRO) closed Friday at $3.687, up $0.062. Corixa's shares (NASDAQ:CRXA) ended the day at $7.093, up $0.093. *