Wellcome plc agreed Friday to pay Lynx Therapeutics Inc. $30 millionfor the rights to develop and market Lynx's synthetic antisenseoligonucleotide for the treatment of restenosis induced by balloonangioplasty and other surgical procedures.Lynx's Chairman and CEO Sam Eletr told BioWorld that Wellcome, ofLondon, will make the payments in seven installments based onachievement of certain milestones. The first payment, he said, will total$4.6 million and will be made at the anticipated close of the agreementin 30 days.In addition to the $30 million, Wellcome has agreed to make an equityinvestment in Lynx equaling a 5 percent interest or $4 million,whichever is less, when the Hayward, Calif.-based company beginstrading publicly. Wellcome also will assume all costs associated withdevelopment and marketing of a restenosis drug.Eletr said the investment by Wellcome is the largest since Lynx wasformed in 1992. "Our last private placement raised $16 million," hesaid. "The most important thing for us is that all the trials and futureresearch and development [for the restenosis treatment] are now thefinancial responsibility of Wellcome."Eletr said human clinical trials are expected to begin this summer inArgentina. "We will file for U.S. trials shortly thereafter," he added.Lynx's synthetic antisense oligonucleotides, Eletr said, were developedin association with Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Theyare synthetic DNA fragments that target specific genes to block theirexpression.Restenosis is the narrowing of blood vessels caused by injuries to thevessel wall, such as those that occur during balloon angioplasty.To treat restenosis, Eletr said, the oligonucleotides target a geneimplicated in cellular proliferation of the smooth muscle cells on thelining of the vessel wall. When the muscle cells are injured, they areexposed to mitogens causing the cells to proliferate "like crazy," heexplained."We go after the gene that is turned on when the cells startmultiplying," Eletr said. "When the drug is deposited, it slows theprocess of cellular proliferation and the idea is to slow it down enoughso it doesn't block the arteries."In preclinical trials involving pigs, Eletr said, findings showed thatLynx's oligonucleotides inhibited restenosis in the animals' coronaryarteries.In a prepared statement, Wellcome's David Barry, director of research,said, "Lynx's experimental data in porcine models are encouraging.Antisense technology is a new approach, which has the potential toprovide effective treatment."According to Lynx, an estimated 1.5 million angioplasty procedureswill be conducted annually worldwide by 2000. Restenosis currentlyoccurs in about 40 percent of all angioplasty cases. n

-- Charles Craig

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