Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. has received its first milestonepayment, plus a bonus, for a total of $500,000 from its drug-development partner, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE).

The two companies joined forces in 1991 to identify anddevelop drugs for treating osteoporosis, and the strategicalliance has now identified a drug-development candidate plusseveral backups. Ligand (NASDAQ:LGNDA) got the bonusbecause it reached the milestone ahead of schedule. And Pfizersaid it's ready to start preclinical development of the first drugcandidate, with a target date in 1995 for the filing of aninvestigational new drug application.

"To produce our osteoporosis development candidates, wemade fundamental proprietary advances in understanding sexsteroid receptor function and exploited these for drugdiscovery," explained Robert Stein, vice president and chiefscientific officer of Ligand of San Diego. "In preclinical studies,the candidates from this program mimic the beneficial effectsof estrogen on bone and have an impact on serum lipids oftenassociated with cardioprotection without increasing uterine orbreast proliferation," he said.

Under the original terms of the collaboration, Pfizer of NewYork was to pay Ligand a maximum of $7.5 million over thefive-year term of the contract as development objectives areachieved, as well as royalties on sales of any drugs developed.Pfizer is also committed to funding the development,manufacture and commercialization of products.

But because of the program's early success, the two companiesagreed to phase out the ongoing research activities and fundingat Ligand by July 1, 1994; the five-year term would haveended in May 1996. In the interim, Pfizer will continue to payfor all current research personnel in the program at Ligand.The program was structured to support 15 to 20 people at bothPfizer and Ligand.

The companies also agreed that Ligand will not enter intoanother strategic alliance in the osteoporosis field based on anestrogen receptor prior to the end of 1995, and Pfizer will notsell any of its approximately 1.25 million shares of Ligandstock before November 1995.

Ligand's stock closed at $11.50 a share on Thursday, down 25cents.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.