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MorphoSys Taps University of Melbourne to Find New Rxs for Anti-GM-CSF Antibody

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German biotech MorphoSys said last week that it has signed an agreement with the University of Melbourne to jointly investigate new therapeutic applications for MOR103, MorphoSys' HuCAL antibody currently in development for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Under the terms of the agreement, MorphoSys will fund research activities at the University of Melbourne in multiple new indications. The university will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and will be entitled to research funding and clinical milestone and royalty payments, MorphoSys said.

Additional financial details were not disclosed.

MorphoSys developed the MOR103 antibody using its HuCAL, or human combinatorial antibody library platform technology. MOR103 targets human granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor.

In 2007, MorphoSys signed an agreement with the University of Melbourne that provided the company with an exclusive license to a patent application covering therapeutic uses of GM-CSF inhibitors. The claims of the patents are directed to methods of ameliorating the effects of inflammation by administering an antibody directed against GM-CSF, which is implicated in a number of medical conditions.

In November 2008, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued the patent, US No. 7,445,836, covering uses of antibodies against GM-CSF, MorphoSys said.

MorphoSys, based in Martinsried, has been developing its antibody for use in treating rheumatoid arthritis. The collaboration with the University of Melbourne will focus on new undisclosed therapeutic areas in which GM-CSF has recently been implicated in as-yet unpublished work by researchers at the university, MorphoSys said.

As part of the expanded relationship, MorphoSys and the University of Melbourne have filed new patent applications intended to broaden the patent position of the anti-GM-CSF approach, the company said.

"Researchers at the University of Melbourne have now generated evidence for the involvement of GM-CSF in indications beyond those that were already known," Arndt Schottelius, chief development officer for MorphoSys, said in a statement.

"We look forward to working closely with them to explore the potential of targeting GM-CSF in these additional indications, and expand further the patent position around inhibitors of GM-CSF," Schottelius added. "Meanwhile, development of our anti-GM-CSF antibody MOR103 in rheumatoid arthritis continues according to plan."

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