Repligen Corp. on Monday announced a collaborationagreement worth more than $14 million with Eli Lilly and Co. todevelop antibody-based therapeutics to treat inflammation.

The three-year program will focus on antibodies and antibodyfragments that bind to a specific site, CD11b, on neutrophilwhite blood cells. Initial therapeutic targets will be acuteinflammatory conditions such as trauma shock and adultrespiratory distress syndrome.

Repligen shares (NASDAQ:RGEN) rose $1 to $12.50.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Repligen plans to file aninvestigational new drug application within the next 12months, said Ramesh Ratan, chief financial officer.

Under the agreement, Lilly will provide about $10 million inresearch funding during the first year and undisclosedadditional funding for R&D and milestones during the course ofthe project.

"The fact that first-year funding is $10 million gives you anidea that it's a significant program for Repligen and Lilly," saidRatan. "For Repligen, this will be the single largest program wewill be working on this fiscal year."

Lilly will also invest $4 million for 280,000 shares of Repligenstock, giving it slightly more than 2 percent of Repligen sharesoutstanding. Lilly is paying $14.29 per share for the stock.

Lilly will have exclusive worldwide marketing rights toproducts resulting from the collaboration for trauma shock andARDS, as well as for two additional undisclosed indications.Repligen will have marketing and sales rights to otherunnamed products.

"Inflammation is a very, very competitive field," said Ratan."For us, the significant event is that Lilly decided to go with us.It validates the science of this particular program."

The program is targeting neutrophils, which are activated atthe end of the inflammatory cascade. The cascade can betriggered by a number of events, such as the presence ofbacterial cell wall fragments, leading to the production ofcytokines such as interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor, saidWalter Herlihy, senior vice president of R&D at Repligen.

Ultimately, these lead to the activation of neutrophils and achange in the surface of the endothelial walls, allowing theneutrophils to pass through into tissues, where they releasesubstances that cause tissue damage.

CD11b can affect both the process by which neutrophils passthrough the endothelial walls and the release of damagingsubstances, such as superoxide anion, Herlihy said.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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