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ZymoGenetics, Serono in Deal to Develop Treatments for Autoimmune Diseases

NEW YORK, Sept. 4 – ZymoGenetics and Serono said Tuesday that they had entered an exclusive agreement to develop treatments for autoimmune diseases in a deal that could generate up to $52.5 million in payments for ZymoGenetics.

The product candidates will come from ZymoGenetics’ research on autoimmune disease. Using a  bioinformatics-based approach, ZymoGenetics of Seattle said it has identified two molecules it believes are involved in regulating the human immune system. TACI and BCMA are cell-surface receptor proteins found on B-lymphocytes, which produce antibodies, ZymoGenetics said.

Serono of Geneva has agreed to develop products based on these receptors for diseases that stem from the over production of antibodies, a situation that can cause antibodies to attack cells.

“ZymoGenetics' expertise in functional genomics combined with our own experience in product development and commercialization will help take these pre-clinical product candidates through development," Silvano Fumero, head of research and pharmaceutical development at Serono, said in a statement.

The deal with ZyomGenetics represents the second large genomics collaboration the Swiss biotech company has entered over the past two months. In July, Serono signed a two-year structural genomics collaboration with London’s Inpharmatica, which could result in milestone and other payments totaling $20 million for the British bioinformatics company. 

Under the terms of that deal, Serono said it would provide an undisclosed amount of funding to Inpharmatica to use its predictive protein function technologies to identify drug targets.

Under the terms of Serono’s most recent deal, ZymoGenetics estimated that it could receive licensing fees and milestone payments of up to $52.5 million as new products are developed and approved.

Serono and ZymoGenetics have agreed to share research and development expenses, while ZymoGenetics will retain an option to co-promote products with Serono in North America. If ZymoGenetics exercises this option the two companies will share commercialization expenses and profits equally.

Serono will have exclusive rights to market products in the remainder of the world, for which ZymoGenetics will receive undisclosed royalties. Serono will manufacture all products for both clinical trials and commercial sales. 

"A key component of this agreement is ZymoGenetics' participation in the sales and marketing of products resulting from the collaboration," said Bruce Carter, CEO of ZymoGenetics. "We see this as critical to the long-term development of our business.” 

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