Human Genome Sciences Inc., which has expanded its genediscovery efforts beyond the scope of its corporate moniker, willapply its technology to sequencing the genome of the bacterialpathogen, Streptococcus pneumoniae, for Roche Holdings Ltd.

William Haseltine, Human Genome Sciences chairman and CEO,said financial terms of the long-term collaboration with Roche, ofBasel, Switzerland, were not disclosed.

Roche purchased rights to use the bacterium's genetic data to developantimicrobial drugs and antibiotics to battle infections _ such aspneumonia, meningitis, sinusitis and peritonitis _ caused by thepathogen in humans.

Human Genome Sciences, of Rockville, Md., will receive licensingfees, milestone payments and royalties. It retains rights to the S.pneumoniae genome sequence for vaccines and immunotherapeutics.

Haseltine said sequencing of the bacterium's genes is conducted incollaboration with the non-profit Institute for Genomic Research(TIGR), of Gaithersburg, Md. In 1992 Human Genome Sciencesagreed to pay TIGR $85 million over 10 years for an alliance on genesequencing efforts.

Haseltine estimated that S. pneumoniae has 2,500 to 3,000 genes inits genome, but he could not say when the sequencing would becomplete.

Spelling out the bacterium's genetic code will assist in identifyingmolecular targets for new therapeutics to destroy the pathogen. Thedrug discovery efforts also will help offset the problem of microbialresistance to existing antibiotics.

In January 1996, Human Genome Sciences sequenced the genome ofStaphylococcus aureus, which Haseltine said was about the same sizeas the S. pneumoniae pathogen. The S. aureus bacterium is a majorcause of wound infections and those found in hospitals.

Based on a 1995 collaborative agreement, MedImmune Inc., ofGaithersburg, will evaluate possibilities for developing vaccines orimmunotherapeutics from both S. aureus and S. pneumoniae.

In July 1995 MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences agreed towork together on vaccines for bacterial infections following thelatter's sequencing of Haemophilus influenzae, the first completegenome sequence for a free-living organism. (See BioWorld Today,July 31, 1995, p. 1.)

H. influenzae is responsible for middle ear infections in children,bronchitis, pneumonia, and occasionally meningitis.

The Roche and MedImmune agreements are among six HumanGenome Sciences has negotiated outside its main human genesequencing alliance with SmithKline Beecham plc, of London, whichpaid $125 million to develop drugs from the genetic data.

Human Genome Sciences also has collaborations based on unravelinghuman genome secrets with Isis Pharmaceuticals, of Carlsbad, Calif.,Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, and GeneticTherapy Inc., of Gaithersburg. Genetic Therapy was acquired bySandoz Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, in July 1995.

In another agreement, Human Genome Sciences will sequence thecorn genome for Pioneer Hi Bred International Inc., of Des Moines,Iowa, which will use the data to improve corn production.

Human Genome Sciences is focusing on therapeutic proteins for itsown drug development efforts.

The company's stock (NASDAQ:HGSI) closed Thursday at $40.25,up 75 cents. n

-- Charles Craig

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