Incyte Pharmaceuticals Inc., one of the first genomicscompanies to establish itself as a purveyor of genesequence information, has entered into an agreement withDenmark-based Novo Nordisk A/S, the thirdpharmaceutical firm to pay for access to Incyte's databases.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the twocompanies said the deal is similar to three-yearagreements Incyte, of Palo Alto, Calif., negotiated withNew York-based Pfizer Inc. and The Upjohn Co., ofKalamazoo, Mich. One difference, however, is that NovoNordisk will not make an equity investment in Incyte.

Pfizer and Upjohn agreed to pay a combined $45 millionfor the non-exclusive right to tap into Incyte's genesequence and expression information. Pfizer's $25million agreement in June 1994 included a $9 millionequity investment. In December 1994, about half ofUpjohn's $20 million payment bought the pharmaceuticalcompany an equity interest. Pfizer and Upjohn each ownabout 10 percent of Incyte.

The Novo Nordisk collaboration gives the Danish firm'sbiotechnology drug discovery subsidiary, ZymoGeneticsInc., of Seattle, access to Incyte's Lifeseq data base.

Incyte's president and chief executive officer, RoyWhitfield, said the agreement is similar to deals withPfizer and Upjohn with respect to annual fees and non-exclusive access to the information.

Whitfield said Incyte's data base includes about 70,000genes and by the end of the year will contain 100,000genes. Estimates of the actual number of genes in thehuman genome have varied from 70,000 to 100,000, butWhitfield said Incyte now believes the total is more than100,000.

"The rate at which we continue to discover new genes hasbeen surprising," Whitfield said.

In addition to DNA sequences, Incyte's data basesinclude analyses of genes, such as gene expression andcell specificity.

ZymoGenetics said its researchers will use the data basesfor drug discovery focusing on diabetes and hormonereplacement therapy, which are core development areasfor Novo Nordisk.

Whitfield said ZymoGenetics has bioinformaticscapabilities for identifying genes and their functions, butlacked data.

Although a growing amount of gene sequenceinformation is available in public data bases, MarkMurray, ZymoGenetics' director of strategic businessdevelopment, said Incyte has more and is increasing theamount rapidly.

"We wanted the greatest amount of information," Murraysaid, "as soon as we could get it."

Incyte's stock (AMEX:IPI) closed Monday at $17.25, up25 cents. Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) increased 13 centsto $29.38. n

-- Charles Craig

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