ImmunoGen Inc. announced Tuesday that it has formed a newcompany to hold the rights to products that result from itsongoing research work with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.The research explores the use of a protein responsible for thenatural process of cell death, or apoptosis, in creatingtherapeutic drugs.
The company made the announcement Tuesday at theHambrecht & Quist 11th Annual Life Sciences Conference in SanFrancisco.
The new entity, called Apoptosis Technology Inc. (ATI), willessentially exist on paper only. IThe work will be done at Dana-Farber and ImmunoGen,J said Mark Ratner, ImmunoGen'sdirector of external communications.
Ratner told BioWorld that ImmunoGen will contribute $2million to ATI over the next three years to fund research atDana-Farber of Boston. In addition, he said ImmunoGen hascommitted $1 million toward an in-house effort on behalf ofATI. IThatLs not to say we wouldnLt commit more funds if thetechnology yields an exciting prospect within the three-yeartime frame,J he said.
Though the research is at an early stage, ImmunoGen believesthat the issued and pending patents arising out of Dana-FarberLs discovery of apoptosin, combined with its ownexperience in product development, could put the company in astrong position to pursue therapeutic drugs for diseases thatare characterized by either exaggerated cell death orproliferation. The disease areas ATI may pursue either alone orwith partners include cancer, viral diseases, tissuehypertrophy/atrophy, autoimmune disorders, transplantrejection, neurodegenerative disorders and inflammation.
IThe discovery of this protein has allowed us to potentiallymimic the method a human T lymphocyte uses in effecting celldeath,J Stuart Schlossman, chief of the division of tumorimmunology at Dana-Farber and one of three researchers therewho discovered the protein, told BioWorld. IWe can now exploitthat knowledge to prevent abnormal cell death such as occurswith the loss of CD4 cells in AIDS patients or, conversely, toprevent abnormal cell proliferation such as occurs in tumors.J
Schlossman said that a significant portion of cells in the humanbody die and are replaced naturally each day due tospontaneous activation of the pathway that leads to apoptosis.He said apoptosis is a Icalm and orderlyJ process that ends inDNA fragmentation and cell death, compared with the moredramatic process of necrosis, an acute reaction to stress that isalso fatal to cells.
ImmunoGen (NASDAQ:IMGN) of Cambridge, Mass., will have theright of first refusal for all therapeutic applications of theDana-Farber technology, but must purchase the rights to eachindication separately from ATI, based on a formula tied to themarket size of each disease. ImmunoGen stock closed Tuesdayat $12.75, up 25 cents a share.
-- Lisa Piercey Business Editor
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