Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc of Cambridge, England, and the ImperialCancer Research Fund (ICRF), have entered a research collaborationagreement designed to put apoptosis _ the process that controls celldeath _ to manufacturing use.Under the agreement, Cantab will have exclusive worldwide rights totechnology developed as a result of the collaboration. Rights for thedevelopment of therapeutic products are retained by ICRF.The program is being funded by Cantab, the Medical ResearchCouncil, and the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry's LINK CellEngineering Program.The apoptosis program at ICRF, Britain's equivalent of the NationalCancer Institute, is headed by Gerard Evan. Evan's work has led to theidentification of particular genes which are associated with failures inthe process by which cell death is regulated. Apoptosis is believed tocontribute to the spread of cancer when it fails to regulate the growth ofdiseased cells. As a result, normal cell death does not occur.Cantab hopes that its collaboration with ICRF will yield techniques forharnessing the same characteristics of apoptosis that promote growthand using them to prolong cell life and improve cell growth. Thecompany believes success would enable the production of newbiopharmaceuticals and improve the economics of existingmanufacturing processes. Manufacture of many of these productsinvolves the use of cultured cells."We are looking for ways to manipulate the apoptotic pathway," saidAndrew Sandham, Cantab's chief operating officer. "Our interest is towork with ICRF in a basic research program and use the discoveriesmade to develop enhanced cell lines, with improved viability, forproduction of either recombinant protein products or live virusproducts."Sandham said Cantab plans to use technology developed through thecollaboration for its own products. However, the company's basicstrategy could eventually lead to collaboration with other companiesthrough licensing arrangements, he said.Cantab has a leucocyte modulator in Phase II trials in the U.K. Thisproduct for the management of organ transplant rejection is beingdeveloped in collaboration with Baxter International Inc., of Deerfield,Ill. Cantab also has a therapeutic antigen product for the treatment ofcervical cancer in Phase I/II trials in the U.K.

-- Philippa Maister

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