LONDON - Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) Group plc joined forces with Progenitor Inc. to develop and commercialize antibody therapeutics based on Progenitor's leptin receptor gene discovery.

The leptin receptor is seen as a possible target for obesity and diabetes treatments. The two companies will conduct the program jointly and share equally all costs and revenues.

At the same time, the two partners said they have agreed to a two-way technology access deal that will allow both to accelerate their other product development programs.

Progenitor will give CAT access to genes from its programs in asthma, inflammation, hematopoiesis and angiogenesis as targets for antibody-based therapeutics, while CAT will develop target-specific antibodies the companies will use to evaluate function and validate the therapeutic significance of the genomic targets.

In this case each will bear its own costs but will share data and intellectual property. CAT, based in Melbourn, U.K., will have first right to develop antibody products, and Progenitor, of Menlo Park, Calif., to develop non-antibody products.

CAT's technology gives it the ability to select an antibody against the protein or peptide encoded by every gene and partial gene sequence. It can then do high-throughput screening of such antibody probes against a panel of normal and diseased tissues, identifying disease-associated proteins.

Using this approach of “guilt by association,“ CAT said it can single out those protein targets that have relevance to a particular disease state from the thousands listed in genomic databases.

David Chiswell, CEO of CAT, said combining CAT's proprietary functional genomics tools with Progenitor's expertise in developmental biology and disease genetics will be a valuable source of novel gene targets and information that will “fuel product opportunities for both companies.“ - Nuala Moran