RiboGene Inc. and Abbott Laboratories established a research anddevelopment collaboration to discover antifungal drugs usingRiboGene's expertise in translation technology.

The deal calls for Abbott to fund RiboGene's research effort for up tothree years. Abbott also will make an equity investment and agreed topurchase additional equity later, presumably when privately heldRiboGene offers stock publicly.

RiboGene is entitled to milestone payments for each compounddeveloped and royalties on sales. Further terms were not disclosed.

It is the second corporate collaboration involving RiboGene'stechnology targeting cell translation, the second major step, aftertranscription, in cellular protein production. RiboGene is screeningantiviral compounds from the library of Morris Plains, N.J.-basedWarner-Lambert Co. under a collaboration established early in 1995.(See BioWorld Today, Jan. 5, 1995, p. 3.)

Tim Morris, RiboGene's vice president of finance and administrationand chief financial officer, said Abbott will be "providing asignificant amount of the research and development funding for thenext three years."

"The antifungal program has been in existence about three years,"Morris said. "In the last year we've come up with several `hits' whichis one of the things that brought Abbott into this deal." He saidRiboGene has looked at about 110,000 compounds in its twoantifungal screens. One of the first steps in the new collaboration willbe to screen Abbott's library for additional leads.

"RiboGene's high-throughput screening system focuses on fungaltranslation mechanisms, which differ significantly from those foundin human cells," said Charles Moehle, who is responsible forRiboGene's antifungal program. "Targeting fungal-specific processesgreatly enhances our ability to discover antifungal drugs withminimal side effects."

Abbott, of Abbott Park, Ill., is devoting a team of chemists to theeffort, Morris said.

RiboGene's lead antifungal compound, RG 201, is not covered bythis agreement. That candidate, in Phase I, was licensed from theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is specifically aimedat treating Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. The idea with Abbott isto develop broad-spectrum antifungals.

RiboGene's deal with Warner-Lambert is not as conventional as thecollaboration with Abbott. That arrangement gives RiboGene, ofHayward, Calif., the opportunity to negotiate the purchase ofcompounds that showed promise in its screens. Warner-Lambert thenwould have the option to buy back into drug candidates before filingof an investigational new drug application. n

-- Jim Shrine

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