Glaxo Holdings plc and MegaBios Corp. announced Thursday theircollaboration on the development of gene therapeutics for theprevention and treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF). The research is basedon delivering genes to cells in the body using lipid-mediated vectors.The collaboration is London-based Glaxo's first entry into the field ofgene therapy, and the first time a major pharmaceutical company hascommitted to gene therapy for the treatment of CF, Glaxo said.The agreement is for five years and involves an initial undisclosedpayment by Glaxo to Megabios. Glaxo has an exclusive worldwidelicense to make, use and sell CF therapeutics, which would generateroyalty payments to Megabios.William Brown, vice president of Megabios, a privately held companyin Burlingame, Calif., told BioWorld the deal with Glaxo represents itsfirst collaboration with a major company and the first that involved asignificant amount of money. The company is developing lipid-basedin vivo gene therapeutics.Brown said his small company faced a choice after it developed theformulation for the CF therapeutic: develop it, or collaborate with acompany strong on development expertise."In our survey of companies involved in respiratory diseases, Glaxohad the best clinical development group," Brown said.The two companies will collaborate on development of an agent toproduce the normal protein in the cells lining the airways of CFpatients, with the hope of arresting the disease in the lungs. The lipid-based therapeutic is non-viral and has the potential to deliver the CFtransmembrane regulator (CFTR) DNA coding sequence in the cellslining the airways, causing those cells to produce the functional CFTRprotein.In a separate collaborative arrangement, Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc.of San Diego said it is extending its relationship with Glaxo. Theagreement is aimed at developing medicines for treating diabetes, highblood pressure and obesity. A three-year collaborative agreementsigned in October 1991 has been extended one year, and will be up forannual renewals after that.Amylin said the collaboration has led to the start of a Phase I trial of adrug (an amylin blocker designated AC625) aimed at treating highblood pressure in overweight patients at risk of becoming diabetic.

-- Jim Shrine

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