VERTEX ORAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUG R&D PROGRAM WILL RECEIVE UP TO $30 MIL.
VERTEX ORAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUG R&D PROGRAM WILL RECEIVE UP TO $30 MIL. from Roussel Uclaf for compounds targeting the interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme, the companies announced Sept. 9. Under the agreement, the French firm Roussel Uclaf will provide the Vertex Inflammation Program, begun in 1991, with 15-30 researchers and up to $30 mil. in milestone and calendar payments for orally active drugs for inflammatory diseases. In exchange, Roussel Uclaf gains exclusive European rights to develop and commercialize drugs resulting from the joint project. Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals retains exclusive rights in the U.S., Central and South America. Vertex and Roussel Uclaf will copromote any successfully commercialized drug products in Europe and the Americas and will share rights to develop and market the drugs in the Far East, including Japan. Vertex said research into IL-1 beta is in the beginning stages. The company does not expect preclinical trials to begin before 1995. In addition to the R&D funding, the active participation of Roussel Uclaf researchers brings the French firm's expertise in animal pharmacology and medicinal chemistry, Vertex said. Vertex' field of specialization is X-ray crystallography applied to rational drug design. The Roussel Uclaf collaborative program is the second announced by Vertex in 1993. In April, Vertex signed an R&D agreement with the Japanese firm Kissei Pharmaceutical to fund its oral AIDS drug program ("The Pink Sheet" April 19, T&G-12). Under that agreement, Kissei will provide technical assistance and will pay Vertex up to $20 mil. in research funding and milestone payments over three years related to compounds targeting HIV protease enzyme inhibitors. Vertex also has a five-year immunophilins R&D program with Chugai Pharmaceuticals established in October 1990.
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