Peptide Therapeutics Group plc signed an agreement with Japan-based Mochida Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. that could be worth morethan $20 million to the three-year-old British start-up company.

The collaboration, which would give Mochida rights to PeptideTherapeutics' products in Japan, is the first major corporate deal forthe Cambridge-based company. Mochida made an initial equityinvestment and has options to boost its ownership stake. In addition,the Japanese pharmaceutical firm agreed to pay license fees and makemilestone payments based on development of Peptide Therapeutics'products. Mochida's commitment could exceed more than $20million over the next five years.

Daniel Roach, commercial director of Peptide Therapeutics, said thecompany's most advanced product is a decapeptide conjugate underdevelopment as an allergy vaccine. The drug has completed PhaseI/II studies as a treatment for hay fever and food allergies.

The privately held company also expects to begin clinical studies inthe U.K. next month of a tetrapeptide-based drug for rheumatoidarthritis.

In the collaboration with Mochida, Roach said Peptide Therapeuticsretains rights to its products outside Japan and is seeking U.S. andEuropean marketing agreements with other pharmaceutical firms.

"Our strategy is not to be a fully integrated drug company," Roachsaid. "We develop product candidates, get them well patented, takethem to early Phase II studies and look for partners around the world.The U.K. has a strong science business, but it has not been so good inthe commercial development business."

In addition to allergies and rheumatoid arthritis, Peptide Therapeuticsis developing peptide-based drugs for asthma and cancer. _ CharlesCraig

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