Chiron Corp. has agreed to pay $10 million to RibozymePharmaceuticals to co-develop the latter's ribozymetechnology for products aimed at treatment and diagnosisof cancers and infectious, cardiovascular and inflammatorydiseases.Ralph Christoffersen, Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals' presidentand CEO, told BioWorld the agreement with Chiron, ofEmeryville, Calif., is the most significant collaboration todate for the Boulder, Colo.-based company, which wasformed in 1992.Christoffersen said his company's technology involvescontrol of gene expression through the use of ribozymes,which are RNA molecules that can destroy messages fromspecific RNA sequences, preventing replication of diseasedcells.The collaboration's first target will be genes associatedwith HIV. The agreement targets four other specificdiseases, but those have not been identified.Christoffersen said Ribozyme already has done researchinvolving HIV. He said the company has developedribozymes in cell cultures that will cleave HIV genes.Larry Kurtz, Chiron's vice president of corporatecommunications, said the ribozyme technology is a newone for his company, but fits in well with the work Chironis doing in immune-based and gene therapies.Under terms of the agreement, Chiron will pay Ribozyme$10 million over the next 12 to 18 months. The equityinvestment includes purchase of an unspecified number ofwarrants for Ribozyme common stock.In addition to the cash payments, Chiron and Ribozymewill share equally in costs of research and development.The deal also allows each partner to defer funding itsportion of Phase II and Phase III clinical studies.Chiron will market products developed and Ribozyme willhave certain rights to manufacturing and co-promotion inNorth America and Europe.Christoffersen said that with the addition of $10 millionfrom Chiron, Ribozyme has raised a total of about $34million.Chiron's stock (NASDAQ:CHIR) closed Thursday at$55.25 a share, up $1.25. n
-- Charles Craig
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