PRIMABioMed Subsidiary and Medarex Announce Commercial Alliance to Develop Cancer
VICTORIA, Australia and PRINCETON, N.J., March 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/
-- PRIMABioMed Limited's (ASX: PRR) subsidiary Oncomab Ltd., and
Medarex, Inc. (Nasdaq: MEDX) today announced that they have entered into an
agreement to co-develop fully human antibodies for treating cancer, and to
jointly commercialize any resulting antibody products.
Under the terms of the agreement, Oncomab and Medarex expect to share
equally the costs of, as well as any future revenues arising from, the
development of any antibody products.
"We believe that partnering with Medarex, a leading antibody company,
represents a significant step towards the commercial validation of our science
and intellectual property," stated Marcus Clark, Chief Executive Officer of
"We are pleased to form an alliance with Prima BioMed's subsidiary,
Oncomab. Our scientists have known each other for years, and we are delighted
that this is evolving into a real commercial partnership. Oncomab brings an
exciting target to the collaboration and I am hopeful that our teamwork will
rapidly lead to clinical candidates," said Donald L. Drakeman, President and
CEO of Medarex.
"While mass production of monoclonal antibodies was first demonstrated in
1975, it is only in the past three to five years that the FDA has approved an
increasing number of antibodies as human therapeutics," Mr. Clark said. "Due
to advances in humanization technology, antibody therapies have rapidly come
of age as an important new treatment technology. Antibody therapeutics have
surpassed $3 billion in worldwide sales in 2001."
Antibodies are designed to bind to specific target molecules making them
very precise. The Oncomab technology targets a protein that is preferentially
expressed on a broad range of tumor types. By targeting this protein the
antibody may cause tumor cell death. "We believe that these antibodies are
like `super' proteins that much more powerfully attack cancer than the body's
own immune system," commented Mr. Clark.
In 2002, Prima BioMed announced exciting results in mice that demonstrated
the effectiveness of a tumor-targeting antibody against breast, colon and
prostate human cancer cell lines. The Oncomab-Medarex collaboration is
designed to generate a fully human antibody targeted to a non-disclosed tumor
specific protein and move it through clinical trials. This work is expected
to improve the effectiveness of the potential product and reduce the risk of
adverse effects associated with animal derived antibodies.
"Prima BioMed exercised rights over cancer antibody technology from the
Austin Research Institute (ARI), Melbourne, Australia and securing a partner
to humanize the antibody was a key part of our development program. This deal
with Medarex is the result of six months of internal review of international
companies with patented technology to generate human antibodies. We believe
that we have an exceptional target and it was therefore important to select
the company that shares a sense of this position and provided the priority we
were seeking," stated Mr. Clark.
Oncomab and Medarex have formed a Joint Steering Committee that is
currently finalizing a product development program for joint research
activities at Medarex and Oncomab's Melbourne laboratories based at the Austin
Research Institute (ARI). Immunization of mice will be undertaken by Medarex
and assays to test the antibodies are currently being optimized in Melbourne
by the scientists at the ARI. "Medarex's collaborative approach to the
development ensures that our scientists continue to be intimately involved in
the program and contribute the expertise generated in the earlier work
conducted at the ARI," said Mr. Clark.
The tumor antigen targeted in this project is a protein found on the
surface of cancer cells. The companies believe that its preferential
expression by cancer tissues makes it an ideal target for antibody therapy, as
the antibodies are unlikely to bind to and destroy normal tissues. This tumor
antigen is believed to be expressed on a wide variety of solid tumors
including breast, lung, colon, ovarian, and prostate, as well as on lymphomas.
These multiple indications provide for a potentially large market opportunity.