The Upjohn Co. licensed exclusive rights to a monoclonal antibodyin Cytel Corp.'s cell adhesion program that inhibits the activity of P-selectin, the companies said Tuesday.

The product, CY 1748, is in preclinical development with potentialindications being restenosis and deep vein thrombosis. Cytel said lastyear that it expected to take CY 1748 into the clinic this year, butneither company would disclose development plans on Tuesday.

Upjohn, of Kalamazoo, Mich., gained exclusive manufacturing rightsand marketing rights everywhere except the Far East, where rights areowned by Sumitomo Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd., of Osaka, Japan.Sumitomo and San Diego-based Cytel have been collaborating in thecell-adhesion area since 1991.

Upjohn paid Cytel $1 million last year for an option to evaluate CY1748, a humanized monoclonal antibody. Cytel received $3 millionup-front from Upjohn in the licensing deal, and could get additionalmilestone payments and royalties on sales. Upjohn also will assumeall responsibility for development.

The $3 million payment allowed Cytel, which reported results for itsfirst quarter on Tuesday, to break even in the period, the first quarterthe company has not reported a net loss. On March 31, the companyreported cash and equivalents of $31.9 million and 21.6 millionshares outstanding.

Joe Heywood, Upjohn's executive director, worldwide publicrelations, told BioWorld his company has identified cell adhesion asan area in which it wants to be an important player.

"We've got critical mass in this area of cell-adhesion biology,"Heywood said. "This [CY 1748] is an important addition to that.We've gathered the resources, human and fiscal, to move into thearea. In addition to what we're doing ourselves, we're reaching outfor things along the lines of CY 1478."

Heywood said Upjohn does not disclose its research anddevelopment plans until potential products are in later-stage humantesting.

The anti-P-selectin antibody showed promise in animal models,apparently by inhibiting the migration of neutrophils to tissue that hasbeen deprived of blood and oxygen during reperfusion. Researchersfound that the cell adhesion molecule P-selectin may play a criticalrole in recruiting those neutrophils to sites of damaged tissuefollowing reperfusion. Blocking P-selectin inhibited the neutrophilmigration, thus protecting the tissue.

Upjohn said P-selectin facilitates adhesive interactions betweenblood platelets, neutrophils and cells in the endothelium of bloodvessels, contributing to the production of local blood clotting andinflammation. The company said the antibody's primary potentialadvantage is in reducing the incidence of restenosis without bleedingcomplications.

Cytel's lead drug in its cell-adhesion program is Cylexin, which bindsboth E- and P-selectin receptors. The unpartnered small molecule isin Phase II studies in lung injury and angioplasty followingmyocardial infarction.

Cytel's stock (NASDAQ:CYTL) closed unchanged Tuesday at $4.25per share. n

-- Jim Shrine

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