Vical Inc. and Genzyme Corp. have joined forces to developnon-viral vector gene therapies for treating cystic fibrosis (CF).

The collaboration, announced late Monday, will evaluatewhether Vical's (NASDAQ:VICL) cytofectins, a class of cationiclipids, can be used to deliver the gene for CF into patients' cells.

The agreement involves a multiyear research collaboration andan option for Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ) to license exclusivelyVical's cytofectins for use in CF therapy. If Genzyme ofCambridge, Mass., exercises its option, it will pay Vical of SanDiego a fee for that option, as well as research, milestone androyalty payments. The companies did not disclose the financialdetails.

Vical formulates its cationic lipids so they combine with DNA toform complexes that can deliver genes directly into cells --without the need for viral vectors. University of Michiganresearcher Gary Nabel is already conducting Phase I/II clinicaltrials in humans of a putative melanoma vaccine that employsVical's cytofectins and the gene for the tumor antigen HLA-B7.

Genzyme, on the other hand, is trying various approaches fortreating CF. In addition to lipid vectors, it is working onadenovirus and other viral vectors for CF gene therapy. Aswell, Genzyme is working on a replacement product for thedefective gene's protein product. The company is alsodeveloping a hyperimmune antibody product for treatingPseudomonas infections associated with CF.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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