Human Genome Sciences Inc. (HGS) and Genetic Therapy Inc. (GTI)said Wednesday they will combine resources in a collaboration thatwill take advantage of one company's access to human genes and theother's ability to deliver them.The agreement calls for a joint effort to identify and develop products,and also to seek deals with third-party companies interested in workingwith the collaborators. The agreement restricts GTI from collaboratingwith companies whose primary business is gene discovery, and HGSfrom working with other gene therapy firms."This agreement doesn't provide for an equity investment or up-frontfunding (from either side)," William Haseltine, HGS' chairman andCEO, told BioWorld. "It's really a pooling of technology andresources. We will share both the expenses and proceeds from thiswork."The agreement benefited both Maryland-based companies in NASDAQtrading Wednesday. Genetic Therapy (GTII), of Gaithersburg, shareswere up 75 cents, closing at $9.75. Human Genome (HGSI), ofRockville, closed at $16.50 per share, up $1."The combination makes a fairly powerful statement," MarcSchneebaum, GTI's senior vice president and chief financial officer,told BioWorld. "This provides a broad set of possibilities for bothcompanies."Haseltine said, "It offers one-stop shopping for gene therapy. Togetherthis offers almost everything a company will need: a delivery vehicle,genes and the capability to put together research programs to addressspecific therapeutic targets."We will develop some of the products ourselves. Others we maydevelop with collaborators." Haseltine said the new entity will be opento a variety of agreements with potential collaborators.A management committee with equal representation from eachcompany will decide what products to develop, and will evaluateproposals from other companies.HGS already has a major collaboration with SmithKline BeechamCorp. in which SKB has the first right to develop products from genesHGS discovers. However, it excludes gene therapy (except vaccines)and antisense products, so it shouldn't affect the new union, which isspecific to gene therapy.GTI has a collaboration with Sandoz Pharma Ltd. to develop andmarket products based on GTI's herpes simplex-thymidine kinase genetechnology, a potential treatment that uses GTI's vector systems totransfer the gene for the thymidine kinase enzyme into tumor cells.Sandoz and GTI also have an undisclosed cancer project ongoing.Those projects would be excluded from the HGS-GTI collaboration. n

-- Jim Shrine

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