Icos Corp. on Friday announced its collaborative agreementwith Glaxo Holdings p.l.c. to develop drugs to treatinflammatory and cardiovascular diseases, ending a summer ofspeculation about the deal.

The companies will develop therapeutic agents to modulate theactivity of a key regulator of intracellular messengers thataffect a broad range of conditions, including inflammation andcardiac contractility.

Glaxo and Icos will share research and development ofcompounds and will co-promote products. "This is envisionedby both parties as a very long-term relationship," said JaniceLeCocq, executive vice president of finance and administrationat Icos.

Financial terms weren't disclosed. "Given that it wasextremely important to us to have rights to market products,there's no big payment to us up front," LeCocq said. "If we hadgone that route, we would not have been able to get the kind oftransaction we wanted."

Rumors that Icos was negotiating a major collaborationsurfaced in mid-summer, prompting Icos to confirm in Augustthat it was in negotiations with the British company.

Stock of the Bothell, Wash., company (NASDAQ:ICOS) closeddown 75 cents on Friday at $16.

The companies will focus on tissue-specific isozymes ofphosphodiesterase (PDE), which are critical to the metabolicactivity of cells. Isozymes are structurally related forms of anenzyme.

PDEs are one of two types of enzymes that control theconcentration of two intracellular messengers, cyclic AMP andcyclic GMP. The concentration of cAMP and cGMP determineswhether chemical signals will be enhanced or dampened. PDEsact as brakes: When their activity is high, signals are reduced;when their activity is low, signals are raised.

At least 15 PDEs exist, grouped into at least five distinctclasses. Icos has cloned at least 10 different human PDEstrains and expressed at least three of these in mutant strainsof yeast, where they can be used to screen candidatecompounds.

Icos hopes that targeting tissue-specific PDEs will reduceunwanted side effects associated with broad-based PDEs, suchas theophylline, which is widely used to treat asthma.

The agreement will initially focus on inflammatory diseasessuch as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, multiplesclerosis and asthma, which Icos has been targeting, pluscardiovascular disease, which is of interest to Glaxo. Theprogram may also be expanded to include respiratory andgastrointestinal disorders.

"I think it's a big plus," Oppenheimer & Co. analyst JeffreyCasdin said of the deal. Casdin cited Glaxo's expertise in smallmolecules, which are necessary for cell activation. "Icos haselucidated the targets better than anybody," he said. "So it's anappropriate technical marriage."

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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