DNX Corp. and Baxter Healthcare Corp. signed an agreement Mondayforming a new partnership in organ transplantation that includes aproduct on the market and the technologies of four companies.The partnership, called Nextran, initially will be financed with $20million from Baxter and $2.25 million from DNX, which also willprovide laboratory and office space in Princeton, N.J., and two swinefacilities in Ohio. The Baxter affiliate will be 70 percent owned byBaxter and 30 percent by DNX.In addition to the Baxter and DNX technologies, Nextran gains rightsto anti-CD45 monoclonal antibodies being developed by Baxter incollaboration with Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc, of Cambridge,England. Anti-CD45, infused into the donor organ beforetransplantation for the prevention of acute kidney transplant rejectionepisodes, is in Phase II trials in the U.S. and U.K.Nextran also gets rights to monitoring kits based on SangStat MedicalCorp.'s human leukocyte antigen (sHLA) technology being developedby SangStat, of Menlo Park, Calif., and Baxter. The products aredesigned to identify compatibility between donors and recipients. PRA-STAT, the first of the products, already is on the market in Europe andis expected to be sold in the U.S. next year.Baxter, of Deerfield, Ill., also will contribute Therasorbimmunoadsorption columns, which are in European clinical trials.DNX, of Princeton, is contributing its xenotransplantation program andrights to its anti-CD3 humanized monoclonal antibody, which willenter the clinic later this year, for treatment of acute organ rejection.DNX also will license to Baxter its blood substitute technology."Baxter has been at the forefront of kidney therapy for more than 40years," Jill Carter, Baxter's vice president, public affairs, toldBioWorld. "We need to be a leader in transplantation as well. We triedto find the most suitable partner to move us forward quickly."Paul Schmitt, DNX's president and CEO, told BioWorld thepartnership will turn DNX into a "cash-positive company. It clearlyunlocks value for DNX shareholders. This frees up the burn rate forDNX. Now we get to be valued as an operating company."In June, DNX and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.,researchers presented data on a genetically engineered pig hearttransplanted into a primate in which the onset of hyperacute rejectionwas delayed for 19 hours, compared to less than 40 minutes inhistorical controls. The pigs express proteins that block complement,an immune system component that causes hyperacute rejection. Thecompany also is working on the transplantation of swine lungs andkidneys.Schmitt said DNX had about $9 million in cash before the deal. Whileit was enough to fund the company through next year, he said, DNXstill was in the market for a corporate partner. "But Baxter came upwith this idea, which was much more exciting," he said.DNX was a few years away from developing a method to removeantibodies from recipients prior to transplanting a transgenic organ.The addition of Baxter's Therasorb solves that, Schmitt said.In addition to having products on the market as well as in the early,middle and late stages of development, he said Nextran "is the onlytransplant company dedicated to solving the three obstacles totransplantation: identifying compatibility between donor organs andrecipients, preventing and treating acute organ rejection, and expandingthe supply of organs."Outside of Nextran, DNX will focus on its preclinical testing servicesthrough its wholly owned subsidiary, Pharmakon ResearchInternational Inc., based in Waverly, Pa., which had 1993 sales of $23million. Through another wholly owned subsidiary, DNXBiotherapeutics, of Princeton, DNX develops Biodigm transgenicanimal models to screen and evaluate new drug candidates. Thecompany also is the exclusive licensee for the PronuclearMicroinjection Patent, a technology used to genetically engineeranimals, which it has sublicensed to 20 companies.News of the deal was released after the market closed on Monday.DNX (NASDAQ:DNXX) stock closed at $4.50 per share, up 13 cents.Baxter (NYSE:BAX) was up 88 cents, closing at $28.63. n
-- Jim Shrine
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