Megabios Corp. on Monday entered its second major corporatecollaboration, a $50 million deal with Pfizer Inc. in the area of genetherapy for cancer.

Privately held Megabios, of Burlingame, Calif., and Pfizer, of NewYork, will focus on intravenous treatment of solid tumors viaangiogenesis inhibition, with an initial target of non-small cell lungcancer.

Pfizer will be responsible for worldwide clinical development andregulatory functions. It gained worldwide marketing rights to anyresulting products. Megabios will receive up to $50 million over fouryears in equity investments, research funding and milestonepayments. Megabios also would get royalties on sales.

Patrick Enright, vice president, finance and business development atMegabios, said the deal included an up-front equity investment byPfizer and funding of all research and development expenses by thepharmaceutical company. He said a second equity investment couldbe made later. Specific terms were not disclosed.

Megabios focuses strictly on preclinical development of non-viralgene delivery technologies. It plans to work with corporate partnersin all programs. In April 1994 Megabios signed its first majorcorporate collaboration when it began work with Glaxo Holdings plc(now Glaxo Wellcome), of London, in gene therapy for cysticfibrosis. (See BioWorld Today, April 15, 1994, p. 1.)

Inhibiting angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels, in theorywould halt the growth of cancers by stopping their blood supply. Oneof Megabios' delivery systems precisely targets vascular endothelialcells, Enright said.

Among Megabios' delivery technologies are cationic lipids, whichhave a net positive ion charge, presumably giving them an affinity forplasma DNA, which has a net negative charge. The therapeutic geneto be used in this collaboration "has not been fully identified,"Enright said. "We have a panel of genes we'll be testing at the outset.We'll select one after a modest amount of preclinicalexperimentation."

George Milne Jr., Pfizer's president of central research, said in aprepared statement, "The control of blood supplies to growing tumorsoffers a promising avenue toward the control of cancers. Regulatingthis vascular growth through interference with the function andproducts of genes may offer powerful, breakthrough therapies forcancer. This partnership with Megabios underscores our belief in thisnovel approach."

Megabios President and CEO Benjamin McGraw III said in aprepared statement, "This collaboration is an important milestone forMegabios because it validates our technology, particularly ourintravenous gene delivery capability, as well as ourcommercialization strategy." n

-- Jim Shrine

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