Immunex Corp. and its majority shareholder, American HomeProducts Corp., amended certain agreements so that Immunex willpay millions less each year for research being done at AmericanHome Products.

The new arrangements relate to oncology programs being developedat American Home Products (AHP) and Immunex's tumor necrosisfactor receptor (TNFR). Under the new deal Immunex will pay $16million each year to support AHP oncology research.

Immunex, of Seattle, was to pay $26 million this year, up to $38.3million in 1997 and 50 percent of AHP's oncology discoveryresearch budget after that.

With the reduced yearly payment Immunex gained an option to co-fund development of oncology candidates of its choosing and gainNorth American marketing rights to those products. AHP keeps rightsoutside of North America to oncology products discovered byImmunex.

TNFR is in Phase III trials for rheumatoid arthritis. Under the oldagreement AHP was developing the product in Europe and Immunexin North America, with AHP paying $4 million to Immunex eachyear. Under the new deal AHP will pay 50 percent of all developmentcosts.

"In addition our development strategies [for TNFR] have beencompletely aligned," said Robin Shapiro, Immunex's manager ofcorporate communications. "It will help us accelerate global clinicaldevelopment."

Shapiro said Immunex already has declined to share funding for twooncology programs at AHP.

In January of this year AHP, of Madison, N.J., agreed to payImmunex up to $35 million for development of another TNF-baseddrug, tumor necrosis factor alpha converting enzyme (TACE).

Both the TACE deal and the revised research agreements came afterlast November's failed buyout attempt of Immunex by AHP.Immunex rejected a $14.50-per-share offer for the 45.4 percent of the39.6 million Immunex shares AHP doesn't already own.

"As far as we're concerned we made the offer and it was rejected,"said Lowell Weiner, AHP's assistant vice president, public relations."There's nothing new, and I can't comment further on it."

Immunex's stock (NASDAQ:IMNX) gained 19 cents afterWednesday afternoon's announcement and 6 cents Thursday to closeat $12.50.

Weiner said the new deal frees up money at Immunex, which shouldallow Immunex to get products to market faster. "We both benefit bythat," he said.

Shapiro said discussion on the new agreement predate the AHPbuyout offer. She, too, said no other offers have been made.

The relationship between AHP and Immunex dates to December1992, when American Cyanamid Co. merged its North AmericanLederle Laboratories oncology business with Immunex. AHP laterbought out American Cyanamid, of Wayne, N.J.

Part of the Immunex-Cyanamid deal called for AHP to pay Immunex$161 million over the next three years if certain sales figures are notreached for Lederle oncology products. Those figures have not yetbeen reached.

In a prepared statement, Immunex Chairman and CEO Ed Fritskysaid, "Immunex's financial support of AHP oncology research will befocused on discovery of small-molecule cancer products, which willcomplement Immunex's biological research efforts. The projectedcost savings from the amended agreements will allow the company toaccelerate investment in Immunex products with nearer-termpotential, such as TNFR for rheumatoid arthritis, Leukine GM-CSFin fungal infections, Novantrone for prostate cancer, and toinvestigate the utility of FLT3 ligand as an immunomodulator and IL-4 receptor as an asthma therapy." n

-- Jim Shrine

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