Ecogen Inc. today announced it has signed a gene licensingagreement with Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. Ecogen hasreceived an undisclosed licensing fee and will receive royaltieson any sales by Pioneer of seed corn containing Ecogen'sinsecticidal genes.

Ecogen's insecticidal genes are obtained from Bacillusthuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium that produces a toxin that isfatal to insects but harmless to mammals.

Ecogen estimated the potential value of corn containing Btgenes at between $600 million and $700 million annually.Pioneer has a 34 percent share of the $1.33 billion U.S. seedcorn market.

Pioneer has licensed the right to include one or two Bt toxingenes in new Pioneer corn hybrids. Research to put genes intocorn is at the development stage, and it could take as long as10 years before such hybrids are commercially available,according to an Ecogen spokesman.

The successful transformation of corn was first announced lastyear by separate teams of researchers at BioTechnicaInternational Inc., Monsanto/U.S. Department of Agricultureand DeKalb Genetics Corp.

This is the second major deal announced by Ecogen this year.In January, Ecogen signed a $12.5 million research,development and marketing deal with Roussel-Uclaf of Paris.

The Langhorne, Pa., company was bailed out of its financialstraits last summer with a $10 million infusion from New Yorkinvestor David Blech. Ecogen's stock (NASDAQ:EECN) hasrevived this year, rising from $1.63 at the end of 1990 to $9.88at the close of trading on Friday.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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