Medarex Inc. said Monday that it foresees expanded roles forits Bispecific monoclonal antibody technology as potentialcancer therapeutics. A Bispecific MAB is already in preclinicaldevelopment to treat HIV.
Medarex said it signed an agreement with the Institut Curie ofParis to conduct preclinical studies of Bispecific productsagainst one form of skin cancer, melanoma, and two neuralcancers, glioma and neuroblastoma. The company is providingits product and an undisclosed "modest" amount of fundingsupport for the research.
Clinical trials of Bispecific products against both this cancergroup and HIV should start during 1993, said Donald L.Drakeman, Medarex's president and chief executive officer.
On applications of Bispecific MAB against HIV, Medarex isworking with researchers at several European laboratories.France's Institut Curie reported to the Eighth InternationalConference on AIDS last week in Amsterdam that an in vitrostudy using Bispecific antibodies effectively neutralized theHIV and prevented further infection of healthy immune cells.The results also were published in the July edition of TheJournal of Infectious Diseases.
Medarex's Bispecific technology combines two MABs: atargeting antibody that mimics natural antibodies in searchingout foreign organisms or cancers and Medarex's patentedTrigger antibody that binds key receptors of the immunesystem, such as macrophages.
The targeting MABs for melanoma, glioma and neuroblastomawere recently licensed from the University of Vaudois inSwitzerland.
The 1990 U.S. patent to the core technology for Medarex'sTrigger MAB was licensed from the Dartmouth School ofMedicine in Lebanon, N.H., where some of the company'sfounding research officials served on the faculty. Dartmouthgranted a non-royalty license to Medarex in exchange for stockand now owns approximately 9 percent of the company.
Formed in 1987 as a joint venture between Dartmouth andNew Jersey-based Essex Chemical Corp., Medarex's corporateheadquarters are in Princeton, N.J. But the company'slaboratories and production facility are in West Lebanon, N.H.
The company takes pride in a form of New England frugality.From 1987 through the end of last year, Medarex spent only$1.5 million, Drakeman said.
Its spending has now stepped up to $1.6 million for the first sixmonths of this year, as the company ramped up to 30employees. Medarex's June 1991 initial public offering raisednearly $13 million from the sale of 2.3 million. shares andwarrants. The company has about $10 million in cash and cashequivalents, Drakeman said.
"I'm not aware of any company that's accomplished what we'vedone in terms of getting products into development on as littlemoney as we've spent," Drake said. "We have what might bethe smallest burn rate in the industry compared to results."
The company has two products in clinical trials. MDX-11 is inPhase I/II multicenter trials as an adjunct used in conjunctionwith chemotherapy for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML).A Phase II trial is under way of an ex vivo bone marrow purgefor AML patients.
Medarex officials organized a management buy-out of Essex'sinterests in Medarex in 1989, after Essex was acquired by DowChemical Co. It postponed last April a second public stockoffering due to market conditions. It expects to eventuallydevelop strategic partnerships with some pharmaceuticalscompanies, Drakeman said.
The company's stock (NASDAQ:MEDX), which went public at $6a share, closed Monday at $8.25 a share, down 50 cents for theday.
-- Ray Potter Senior Editor
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