Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Hoffmann-La Roche onWednesday confirmed that they have completed a collaborativeagreement worth more than $70 million. The deal was reported inWednesday's edition of BioWorld.The five-year pact involves discovery of novel therapeutics based ongenomics technologies and covers two disease targets: obesity andType II diabetes. Nearly all of the $70 million is in research support forMillennium's programs, Darien Wilson, Hoffmann-La Roche's managerof public policy and communications, told BioWorld."Hopefully, they'll be able to come up with small molecules," she said,"and we'll be able to turn around and use them in actual clinicalcompounds for the two therapeutic areas."The deal is the second-largest ever negotiated between a privately heldbiotechnology company and a large pharmaceutical company. LastMay, Human Genome Sciences Inc. of Rockville, Md., signed a dealwith SmithKline Beecham Corp. for $125 million.Under its agreement with Millennium, Hoffmann-La Roche getsexclusive worldwide rights to small molecule therapeutic applicationsof data gathered using Millennium's technologies and, outside NorthAmerica, exclusive antisense, protein and gene therapy applications.Hoffmann-La Roche has an option to co-promote those types of drugsin North America, as well as a worldwide option on all diagnosticapplications.Millennium will receive preclinical and clinical milestone payments.The door also is left open for the Cambridge, Mass., company to workwith other corporate partners in other disease target areas.Sherry Reynolds, an independent consultant who has been responsiblefor the business development function at Millennium since its foundingin January 1993, played a large part in negotiating the deal forMillennium. "We feel this (agreement) is the best way to get at thecause of those diseases," she told BioWorld. "Clearly, a company at ourstage of development couldn't carry that forward on our own."Hoffmann-La Roche already is involved in obesity research. Itscompound Orlistat, which inhibits the enzymes needed to digest fat, isin Phase III clinical trials. Both F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. of Basel,Switzerland, and Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. of Nutley, N.J., are involvedin the collaboration.The deal focused on obesity and Type II diabetes because of thecollaborators' belief that the genes that cause obesity and diabetesoverlap, and because they believe that these two areas are underservedby current treatments. The companies cited studies of identical twinsthat suggested that both disease targets are mostly attributable togenetic rather than environmental factors.

-- Jim Shrine

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