ROCHE BACKING HYBRIDON’s ANTISENSE OLIGONUCLEOTIDE R&D
ROCHE BACKING HYBRIDON's ANTISENSE OLIGONUCLEOTIDE R&D aimed at developing compounds for the treatment of hepatitis B and C viruses and human papilloma virus under a collaboration announced Feb. 4. The three viruses represent new research areas for Hybridon, which has focused mainly on AIDS treatments, the first of which has an IND pending at FDA ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 1, p. 16). The Worcester, Mass.-based privately held firm also has discovery programs in herpes simplex virus, influenza, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's, cancer and organ transplant rejection. Roche will fund research conducted by Hybridon on the three diseases, commit Roche personnel to the project, and make milestone payments according to development benchmarks. In return, Roche will receive an exclusive royalty bearing license to any products that emerge from the collaboration. "Roche has taken an equity position in Hybridon and is committed to a future equity investment," Hybridon said. Although no financial terms of the agreement were released, it is understood to be of similar size to other R&D collaborations involving antisense and related technologies. Antisense-related firms have been avidly courted by major pharmaceutical companies since 1990. Hoechst AG agreed to invest about $30 mil. in Triplex ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 3, 1992, T&G-4). Ciba-Geigy committed over $30 mil. and bought about $8.5 mil. worth of stock in its funding of Isis ("The Pink Sheet" Nov. 5, 1990, T&G-7). Glaxo backed Gilead with $20 mil. over five years in a July 1990 deal ("The Pink Sheet" July 30, 1990, T&G-6). Genta has signed deals with Procter & Gamble and Wyeth-Ayerst. For Roche, the collaboration gives the company an entry into a new biotechnology field different from those under investigation by its majority-owned biotech affiliate Genentech. Another Roche biotech collaboration outside Genetech is with Protein Design Labs for the SMART Anti-Tac antibody, which has completed a Phase I trial and may be used for treating graft-versus-host disease, kidney transplant rejection and some blood cancers ("The Pink Sheet" Jan. 27, 1992, T&G-8). At the BioEast conference Jan. 25, Hybridon said that it was negotiating two alliances with "large international pharmaceutical houses." The company confirmed Feb. 4 that a second collaborative agreement is still being negotiated.
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