By Randall Osborne

In their quest to find anti-infectives for drug resistant bacteria, Genome Therapeutics Corp. (GTC) and Schering-Plough Corp. have extended their genomics alliance to March 31, 2000, a move that raises GTC's guaranteed payments from about $13 million to about $20 million.

"We can [still] get another $23.5 million in milestones," said Bernd Seizinger, vice president and chief scientific officer of Waltham, Mass.-based GTC.

The potential milestone payments are part of the original deal, which was made in 1995 and valued at up to $43.5 million. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 8, 1995, p. 1.)

GTC uses gene mapping, DNA sequencing and computational molecular biology, along with computer-assisted, high-throughput multiplex screening technology.

The partnership with Schering-Plough, of Madison, N.J., was for a minimum of two and a half years, with an option to extend it to four years. Instead, Schering-Plough has opted to stay in the deal for several months beyond the specified limit, and has promised about $7 million more of the deal's potential worth.

Seizinger said the added guarantee of funds is a recognition of GTC's broadened capabilities.

"The most important thing is, they didn't just want to buy sequence information and knockouts from us," Seizinger said. "What we're doing now is integrating genomics with functional genomics and drug discovery."

Fenel Eloi, CFO for GTC, said Schering-Plough bought the longer term in order to get more targets into screening.

"We didn't go into [the collaboration] to have one product," he said. "We went in to get several."

GTC has two other alliances with Schering-Plough. Last September, the companies entered an agreement worth up to $33 million to develop antifungals, and in December 1996 they formed a $67 million pact to develop novel therapeutics for asthma. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 25, 1997, p. 1.)

Recently, GTC reached a "major milestone" in the asthma deal, Seizinger said, but would not be more specific.

GTC's stock (NASDAQ:GENE) closed Monday at $7.75, down $0.125. *