Corvas International Inc. and Pfizer Inc. signed a researchand option agreement Monday to develop neutrophilinhibitory factor (NIF) for stroke and other indications.

Pfizer paid $1.1 million, which gives it an option for oneyear that could be extended to 18 months with anadditional payment. If the option is exercised, Pfizerwould get an exclusive worldwide license to develop,manufacture and market the protein.

Corvas, of San Diego, could receive up to $32 million indevelopment funding and milestone payments, as well asroyalties on product sales. Additionally, Pfizer, of NewYork, will help fund further preclinical development andwould fund all human studies.

NIF, discovered by Corvas in hookworms _ a parasiticnematode _ blocks the activation of neutrophils, theiradhesion to blood vessel walls and the subsequentmigration into tissue. Specifically, NIF interacts withCD11b/CD18, an integrin on the surface of neutrophils.

David Kabakoff, president and CEO of Corvas, saidhuman testing of NIF probably is a year off, with theprecise time frame to be worked out with Pfizer.Company officials last summer presented data at aconference in Germany showing NIF significantlyreduced brain injury in an animal model of stroke.

Kabakoff said Corvas earlier had decided to focus itsresources on two programs: anti-thrombotics, beingdeveloped with Schering-Plough Corp., and nematodeanticoagulant peptides. "As a result we didn't have theresources to push NIF ahead in the challenging indicationof stroke," he said. "It made sense to align with a partnerthat has substantial resources.

"We have an opportunity here to see a very substantialresource commitment in the near term behind a programwe can't fully support," Kabakoff said. "This provides acommercialization partner for one of the programs we'veinvested in. It's one leg of the stool."

Another leg is development of oral antithrombotic drugs,with Schering-Plough, of Madison, N.J. The leadcompound in that alliance, CVS-1123, is nearly throughPhase I studies. Also, Corvas licensed worldwide rightsfor its recombinant tissue factor-based prothrombin timeclotting test to Ortho Diagnostic Systems Inc., of Raritan,N.J., a Johnson & Johnson division; and licensedmonoclonal antibody drugs to Centocor Inc., of Malvern,Pa.

Peter Ringrose, a senior vice president at Pfizer CentralResearch, said, "NIF is an exciting approach to stroke andtraumatic head injury, which builds on Pfizer's strengthin cardiovascular medicine. Our collaboration withCorvas broadens Pfizer's presence in both small and largemolecule drugs."

If Pfizer exercises its NIF option, a $1 million license feeand additional research payments will be made. Thenmilestones tied to clinical development could be reached.

Corvas maintained rights to the NIF discoverytechnology.

Corvas' stock (NASDAQ:CVAS) gained 25 centsMonday to close at $4.13 per share. Kabakoff said thecompany expects to close the year with about $13 millionin cash. Given that figure and certain expectations,Corvas should be funded for about 18 months, he said. n

-- Jim Shrine

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