Encouraged by research results, Marion Merrell Dow Inc.(MMD) has invested at least an additional $7.5 million inAffymax N.V., extending a 1991 agreement to jointly developdrug delivery products, Affymax said Thursday. Companyofficials would not disclose the exact amount of the investment.

MMD's decision to extend until 1997 the original three-yearpact indicates MMD's confidence in the research program, saidDavid Singer, Affymax's treasurer in Palo Alto, Calif.

No products are seen in the near term, Singer said.

Affymax shares (NASDAQ:AFMXF) closed Thursday at $20, up$2.25 per share.

"We had no plans whatsoever to expand the originalagreement, but what we have here is a partner that is soexcited about our progress that they are willing to make a firmcommitment to increase our R&D funding for another threeyears," Singer said.

The collaboration is using Affymax's proprietary VLIPS (verylarge-scale immobilized polymer synthesis) and RPD(recombinant peptide diversity) technologies to developpotential therapeutics in three target areas: interleukin-1 forarthritis and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases,interleukin-2 for transplant rejection and autoimmune disease,and MHC class 2 receptor for autoimmune disease.

VLIPS synthesizes and screens large numbers of differentcompounds on silica chips, and RPD is a biological method ofscreening for lead compounds.

"It is apparent to us now that Affymax's portfolio oftechnologies offers a unique opportunity for cost-effective drugdiscovery," said Fred Lyons, president and chief executiveofficer of MMD of Kansas City, Mo.

Under the terms of the original agreement, signed in May 1991,MMD made a $7.5 million equity investment and provided $7.5million to fund Affymax's R&D. In return, MMD receivedexclusive worldwide rights to products resulting from thecollaboration. n

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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