Somatix Therapy Corp. and Baxter Healthcare Corp. have expandedtheir more than one-year-old collaboration on developing potentialdrugs based on Somatix's gene and cell therapies.

Neither Somatix, of Alameda, Calif., nor Baxter, of Deerfield, Ill.,would reveal financial and business terms of the two newestagreements.

Edward Lanphier, Somatix's executive vice president, said one effortwill target gene transfer vectors to treat chronic granulomatousdisease (CGD) and includes collaborative research and developmentagreements with the National Institute of Allergy and InfectiousDiseases.

The focus of the other agreement between Somatix and Baxter,Lanphier said, involves a cellular therapy, but it was not identified.

Lanphier said Baxter and Somatix began their collaboration in 1993focusing on a gene therapy for treatment of hemophilia A and B. Asecond agreement was signed last April to develop Somatix's T bodytechnology for cancer. T bodies are autologous T cells modified toexpress chimeric receptors, which are designed to bind to antigenson tumor cells causing a cell-mediated immune attack.

Baxter, a subsidiary of Baxter International Inc., of Deerfield, hasless than a one percent equity investment in Somatix, Lanphier said,adding that the collaborations "do not license any of our coreprograms in cancer and central nervous system research."

Cindy Collins, a spokeswoman for Baxter, said her company also hasa gene therapy agreement with Vical Inc., of San Diego, and is indiscussions with other gene therapy firms.

Late last month, two other big pharmaceutical corporations,Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., and Rhone-Poulenc RorerInc., of Collegeville, Pa., announced gene therapy collaborationswith biotechnology companies.

"What we're seeing is that big pharma sat back and waited to see ifthere was a market for this technology," Collins said, "and nowthey're stepping into the arena. Big pharma sees that these therapiescan fill voids in their portfolios."

Somatix's stock (NASDAQ:SOMA) closed Wednesday at $4.75,unchanged. Baxter (NYSE:BAX) was down 12 cents to $27.87. n

-- Charlie Craig

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