SAN FRANCISCO _ Human Genome Sciences Inc., a genediscovery company that has a broad collaboration with SmithKlineBeecham Corp., announced its second niche alliance on Monday.

Human Genome Sciences (HGS) and Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. willwork together on developing antisense drugs, and finding a partnerto fund the research. HGS, of Rockville, Md., released the news atthe 13th Annual Hambrecht & Quist Inc. Life Sciences Conferencehere.

In September HGS formed a similar deal with Gaithersburg, Md.-based Genetic Therapy Inc., a gene-delivery company. In both theGenetic Therapy and the Isis deals, the companies are excludedfrom collaborating with another entity in the partners' fields. Andneither deal involved payments from one partner to the other.

HGS said it already has received $100 million from its collaborationwith SmithKline Beecham, which has rights to HGS' work in allareas except antisense, gene therapy and microbial organisms. NancyBroadbent, HGS' senior vice president and chief financial officer,said HGS isn't likely to get into the microbial area.

William Haseltine, chairman and CEO of HGS, told BioWorld thenear-term focus of the collaboration with Carlsbad, Calif.-based Isisis to find third-party partners that will fund specific projects.

"This positions both of us to be the dominant player in antisensedrug development," Haseltine said, adding that the companies willinitiate research and development efforts in selected areas. "The ideais to leverage this to major pharmaceutical companies."

Broadbent told BioWorld, "This is a very important deal to us. Itgives us the top player in antisense to pursue development andcommercialization in one of the areas we retained."

Isis has three antisense compounds in clinical trials. ISIS 2922, beingdeveloped with Tokyo-based Eisai Co. Ltd., is in Phase III trials totreat cytomegalovirus (CMV)-induced retinitis in AIDS patients.ISIS 2105, to treat genital warts caused by human papilloma virus, isin Phase II trials as an adjunct to surgery. And ISIS 2302, aninhibitor of intracellular adhesion molecule (ICAM-1), is in Phase Itrials.

"We're the leader in antisense, they're the leader in genesequencing," Jane Green, Isis' director, investor relations, toldBioWorld. "Both companies' technologies are at well-developed andpromising points, and it seemed timely and advantageous to both ofus to bring them together.

"It's an arrangement that has all upside to it," Green said. "It createsa strong package for potential partners."

HGS and Isis jointly will manage and share equally in the proceedsfrom any third-party collaboration. The deal is structured so as not tointerfere with either's ongoing alliances or to inhibit futurecollaborations, the companies said.

The antisense compound 2922 acts by inhibiting the function ofmessenger RNA. It is designed to bind to certain sites on a particularmRNA of CMV. HGS' contribution in future efforts will be toidentify gene targets that can benefit from antisense chemistry.

HGS's stock (NASDAQ:HGSI) closed Monday at $14.50, up 25cents, and Isis Pharmaceuticals also jumped 25 cents to $5. n

-- Jim Shrine

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