Darwin Molecular Corp. has entered a collaboration with Rhone-Poulenc Rorer that could generate as much as $16.5 million overthe next four years for the Bothell, Wash.-based gene sequencingcompany.David Galas, Darwin's president and CEO, told BioWorld theagreement with Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, of Collegeville, Pa., willtarget use of gene therapy for cancer, but could also includedevelopment of potential drugs from Darwin's other genesequencing discoveries and molecular evolution program.Galas said Darwin will retain co-promotion rights with Rhone-Poulenc to cancer gene therapy products marketed in the U.S.Initially, Rhone-Poulenc will make a $5 million equity investmentin Darwin, Galas said. The other $11.5 million would come from asecond, undisclosed equity investment, plus research funds andmilestone payments tied to progress of the gene therapy technology.Rhone-Poulenc also will get rights of first negotiation on additionaltherapeutics based on Darwin's research, but Galas said the dealdoesn't preclude his company from seeking agreements with othercompanies in those areas."It's a right of first negotiation," Galas said, "not a right of firstrefusal."Galas said the initial research agreement combines Darwin's herpesthymidine kinase genes, created to enhance the activity ofganciclovir, with Rhone-Poulenc's gene delivery system andvectors."This [agreement] is significant for us in two ways," Galas said."It's the first corporate deal we've made and it comes at a timewhen capital is real welcome."Darwin Molecular was formed in 1992 and has raised a total of$24.4 million. _ Charles Craig

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