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UPDATE: Cambridge Antibody Technology Partners with Immunex to Develop Drugs

NEW YORK, May 21 - Cambridge Antibody Technology will partner with Immunex to jointly discover and develop new antibody-based drugs for treating inflammation, the companies said Monday. 

The agreement calls for Immunex to provide two undisclosed protein drug targets and for CAT to develop antibodies to those targets using its antibody phage display and screening technologies. Immunex is to bear responsibility for pre-clinical evaluation, clinical trials, and product commercialization. 

However, the two companies will share equal responsibility for research and development, as well as all profits from sales of products derived from the research. 

Last November, CAT began licensing its library of antibodies to Immunex for reagent generation and target validation. Under that arrangement, Immunex has eight exclusive product options that it can commercialize from the research. In exchange, Immunex pays CAT clinical milestone fees and royalties on any sales.

But Immunex has a number of drug targets in its pipeline, and has not been able to generate the human antibodies as fast as it liked, said Doug Williams, an executive vice president and chief technology officer at Immunex. "CAT has a great track record of generating high-affinity, highly-specific antibodies," he said. Working directly with them was "the quickest and surest way to move quickly."

Immunex has already produced mouse antibodies to the two potential drug targets, said Williams, and is "highly confident" a human antibody will be effective at interfering with the targets' role in inflammation. A potential therapeutic might be useful for treating arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease, he said.

A profit-sharing deal made sense, added Williams, because Immunex thought it was important for both companies to have equal incentives to make the drug succeed, and because the development costs are shared, along with the risk that the drug might fail.

CAT also announced its earnings Monday, posting slightly higher revenue but significantly narrower losses for the six-month period ended March 31. In the first six months of the year the company posted revenues of 6.6 million British pounds ($9.5 million), compared with 6.4 million pounds in the year ago period. 

The company's losses dropped to 924,000 pounds, from 2.1 million pounds for the comparative six month period a year ago, primarily because of higher interest income received on money raised via the company's IPO last year. 

CAT said that for the remainder of the year, it would have a monthly cash burn rate of 1.8 million pounds.
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