British Bio-technology Group plc and SmithKline Beecham saidThursday that they have signed a collaborative agreement forcompounds to treat arthritis and cancer.

Each company will fund its own R&D program. British Bio-technology will develop anti-invasive cancer therapies andhave exclusive worldwide marketing rights.

SKB will develop arthritis therapeutics and have exclusivemarketing rights in the United States and Japan and co-marketing rights in Europe with British Bio-technology. Thecompanies will pay royalties on their sales.

The companies will develop matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors(MMPIs). "The body's natural repair process to mop updamaged components is to release MMPs, which break downcollagen and make it available for other enzymes," said BrianRichards, British Bio-technology chairman. "When the processgoes wrong, active MMPs are released inside the joints, wherethey destroy collagen. By inhibiting this, we hope to stop theprocess of collagen destruction."

Cancer cells also secrete MMPs, which break down collagen inthe basement of the endothelial wall. This allows cancer cells inthe bloodstream to get through the wall and enter othertissues.

British Bio-tech's first MMPI compound, BB-94 to treat invasivecancer, was synthesized under a 1987 collaboration withSmithKline Beckman, said Richards. That collaboration wasformed to seek compounds to stop the degenerative processescharacteristic of arthritis. BB-94 will enter Phase I trials thisyear in post-menopausal breast cancer patients.

A lead compound for SKB's arthritis program hasn't yet beenidentified.

Earlier this week, British Bio-technology said it has done asilent filing for an initial public offering of shares in the UnitedStates.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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