By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

IntraBiotics Pharmaceuticals Inc. entered into a collaborative alliance with Pharmacia & Upjohn that could net the privately held biotechnology company in excess of $35 million for the clinical development and commercialization of its topical antimicrobial gel, IB-367.

"We are very pleased that our first major partnership is with a worldwide leader in oncology," said Kenneth Kelley, president and CEO of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company. "Only a handful of biotech collaborations have been 50/50 development collaborations — this is a great deal for IntraBiotics."

Under terms of the agreement, the companies will share the costs of developing IB-367 as a treatment for oral mucositis — a painful mouth infection common among cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The companies will codevelop, copromote and share the profits should IB-367 result in a marketable drug in the U.S. Pharmacia & Upjohn, of Windsor, U.K., would develop and promote the product outside the U.S. and pay royalties to IntraBiotics on those profits.

While specific terms of the agreement aren't being released, the deal encompasses an up-front payment to cover 50 percent of the costs of the clinical investigation thus far as well as an equity investment. In addition, Pharmacia & Upjohn will pay clinical milestones and license fees. IntraBiotics could receive up to $35 million plus the clinical development costs.

Should IB-367 prove useful in other indications, IntraBiotics would receive payments in excess of the $35 million.

IB-367 is a synthetic peptide based on a class of antimicrobial peptides called protegrins. Protegrins are highly stable peptides that occur naturally in pigs and serve as an internal defense against bacterial threats. IntraBiotics has IB-367 in Phase I safety trials in both normal volunteers and patients undergoing ablative chemotherapy.

"We started with the structure of the porcine protegrin," Kelley told BioWorld Today, "and then we designed a peptide to improve upon Mother Nature."

Kelley noted the company was able to create a more highly effective yet less toxic synthetic molecule. In the initial clinical trial, IB-367 didn't cause immune or allergic reactions.

In addition to IB-367, IntraBiotics is investigating synthetic protegrins to prevent the numerous lung infections that plague people with cystic fibrosis. The company also is exploring whether systemic protegrins could offer an answer to multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. *

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