Lynx Therapeutics Inc., with expertise in analyzing gene expressionin diseased tissues, formed a joint venture with Germany-basedBASF AG to identify molecular targets for drugs to treat centralnervous system diseases.

The joint venture, BASF-LYNX Bioscience AG, will beheadquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and will be 51 percent ownedby BASF, of Ludwigshafen, Germany, and 49 percent owned byLynx, of Hayward, Calif.

The companies said, in prepared statements, they will invest morethan $66 million in cash and technology to support the joint ventureand its proposed 60-person staff for five years. Company officials didnot return BioWorld Today's call for an interview in advance ofeditorial deadlines.

Lynx's contribution involves its genomics technology, calledmassively parallel signature sequencing (MPSS).

The technology, which still is under development, assesses geneexpression changes in diseased tissues by rapidly cloning, identifyingand quantifying as many as 1 million messenger RNA (mRNA)molecules in a matter of days. A cell can contain as many as 20,000different types of mRNA molecules, which carry the genetic code forthe proteins that perform cellular functions. The gene expressionanalysis is designed to select the most appropriate targets forpotential drugs.

BASF is contributing the cash to support the joint venture as well astechnology of its own. The companies did not specify what portionsof the $66 million are cash and technology.

In addition to identifying disease-related genetic targets for drugs, thecompanies said the joint venture's activities will include using Lynx'sgene expression analysis to assess side effects from potentialtherapeutic candidates.

Lynx signed a second agreement with BASF, worth $19 million overtwo years, giving the drug maker access to the MPSS technology forother projects outside the scope of the joint venture.

In June 1996, BASF also signed on as a subscriber to Palo Alto,Calif.-based Incyte Pharmaceutical's data base of expressed humangene sequences.

The first customer for Lynx's proposed MPSS technology wasHoechst Marion Roussel, of Frankfurt, Germany, which in October1995 made an equity investment and agreed to pay research fundingand other fees totaling up to $35 million over three years.

Lynx, formed in 1992, was a spin off of Applied Biosystems Inc., ofFoster City, Calif., which was acquired in 1993 by Perkin ElmerCorp., of Norwalk, Conn. _ Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.