Syntex (U.S.A.) Inc. and GeneMedicine have collaborated to developand commercialize gene therapies for certain inflammatory andimmunological diseases.As part of the deal, Syntex Corp., parent company of Syntex (U.S.A.),has purchased $15 million of GeneMedicine preferred stock and awarrant to purchase shares of GeneMedicine common stock.GeneMedicine has pending an initial public offering (IPO) in which itis proposing the sale of $3.6 million shares of common stock atbetween $7 and $9 per share.GeneMedicine, of Houston, will provide a license to its technologiesfor gene-based pharmaceuticals, which include controlled, cell-specificgene expression and non-viral delivery systems. GeneMedicine got aco-exclusive worldwide license, with the right to sublicense, toSyntex's cationic lipid technology, known as Dotma, for the deliveryof gene therapeutics. Syntex, of Palo Alto, Calif., also has grantedGeneMedicine an option to obtain exclusive, worldwide licenses tocertain Syntex compounds as activators of GeneMedicine's geneswitch technology.The collaboration also provides for the companies to enter a jointventure to develop and commercialize gene medicines they identify inresearch. Under the joint venture provision, each company would sharein a commitment of at least $20 million. The agreement calls forSyntex to make milestone payments to GeneMedicine.It is the first alliance with a major pharmaceutical company forGeneMedicine. Officials at the company would not comment becauseof the pending IPO.Syntex already has at least six ongoing collaborative agreements, withAgouron Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cambridge Biotech Corp., ChironCorp., HKIB/Syntex Ltd., Synergen Inc. and TheraTech Inc.The latest, with GeneMedicine, "is part of our overall biotechnologystrategy," Linda Thomas, Syntex's manager of public affairs, toldBioWorld. "We want to make small investments in a number of firmsrather than a major commitment in one company or technology."Robert Lewis, president of Syntex Discovery Research and senior vicepresident of Syntex Corp., said, "We have followed the evolution ofgene therapies in the preclinical setting over the past decade, with aplan to get involved when the technology was adequately mature andthe correct partner identified."GeneMedicine's two lead products are in preclinical development. Oneis being developed to deliver insulin-like growth factor I to treatmuscle wasting, osteoporosis and peripheral neuropathies. The other isto deliver blood clotting factors to treat hemophilia B.

-- Jim Shrine

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