Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Abbott Laboratories said Thursdaythey entered into an agreement to develop drugs for inflammatorydiseases using applications of Ligand's transcription factortechnologies.Abbott, of Abbott Park, Ill., will support up to $16 million in researchactivities over five years, and make a total equity investment of $10million, $5 million of which was purchased at $11.64 per share(429,553 shares), and another $5 million will be purchased no laterthan Dec. 31, 1995. Ligand, of San Diego, has about 15.5 millionshares outstanding (16 million fully diluted).Ligand (NASDAQ:LGNDA) stock was up $1 (almost 9 percent)Thursday, closing at $12.50.Ligand's transcription factor technologies are screening assays forIntracellular Receptor (IR) and Signal Transducers and Activators ofTranscription (STATs)."Ligand's technologies afford a number of exciting approaches toinflammation, based on controlling gene expression through IRs orSTATs," said Robert Stein, Ligand's senior vice president and chiefscientific officer. "This alliance will provide the critical mass andexpertise necessary to discover novel anti-inflammatory drugs, as wehave done for other diseases in our other alliances in retinoids andosteoporosis."All of Ligand's other collaborations are in the IR area. A Ligand andAllergan Inc. joint venture has two compounds in the clinic in theretinoid area (and Ligand has two of its own in the clinic); a venturewith Pfizer Inc. has identified a compound for osteoporosis; Ligand isworking with Glaxo Inc. on lipid regulation for cardiovascular disease;and it has a screening collaboration with E. Merck of Germany."This is our first venture that includes our earlier-stage technology[STATs]," Susan Atkins, Ligand's vice president, corporatecommunications, told BioWorld. "We believe the STATs will prove tobe as fruitful as the IRs.""STAT proteins play a significant role in the signal transductionpathways leading to the modulation of cell growth and the regulation ofthe immune system," Atkins said. "The STATs, as it's turning out, areanother super-family of proteins which have an impact in regulatingthe function of cells through gene expression."She said drugs on the market in the inflammation area areglucocorticoids, which have both positive and negative effects. "Withour assay, we're hopeful we'll be able to design drugs for inflammationwith fewer side effects," Atkins said.The deal with Abbott includes additional milestone payments androyalties on product sales. Abbott gets exclusive worldwide rights forall inflammation products, while Ligand gets exclusive worldwiderights for any cancer products arising out of the collaboration. Ligandwould pay milestones and royalties to Abbott for cancer products."Our STATs program is extensive," Atkins said. "We're only using asmall part with Abbott. We have told the market we intend to execute acorporate collaboration exclusively devoted to STATs in the 1995 timeframe." n

-- Jim Shrine

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