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Bayer, Myriad Sign $54 Million Deal to Discover Dementia, Depression Targets

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SALT LAKE CITY--Myriad Genetics here and Bayer's pharmaceutical division, based in West Haven, Conn., have entered into a research collaboration to discover gene targets and develop therapeutics to treat dementia and depression. Under terms of the agreement, Bayer will pay up to $54 million in research and milestone payments for access to Myriad's new ProNet database and other services.

"The addition of Myriad's ProNet technology to Bayer's existing research and expertise in the central nervous system will allow us to identify the most appropriate targets for therapeutic intervention," remarked Wolfgang Hartwig, Bayer's worldwide head of pharmaceutical research. "We believe this partnership will accelerate Bayer's ability to identify new molecular entities that will be candidates for clinical development."

Along with access to its database, Myriad will also provide Bayer with its positional cloning technologies and information from an extensive compilation of Utah families to help identify the genes involved in major depression and bipolar disorder, according to a Myriad spokesman.

The ProNet database now contains information on several hundred proteins, he said. Within a year or so, the company expects to have sequenced full-length genes from 5,000-6,000 proteins. It hopes the database will contain information on all of the up to 100,000 proteins in the human body and their biochemical pathways within about four years, he added.

"There's a massive amount of biology out there waiting to be discovered," the spokesman elaborated. "It's like Columbus going out into the world." He said ProNet differs from competitors' databases because it allows users to see how proteins interact with other proteins to discover what biological role they play. Myriad is in talks with more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies interested in using ProNet, he claimed, adding that the database is also valuable for biotechnology companies. Myriad's 12-person bioinformatics department is headed by John Holmen, vice-president of informatics. Arnold Oliphant, vice-president of functional genomics also contributed to the database.

Myriad is a genomics company focused on the discovery and commercialization of genes found in major common disorders. Bayer is investing approximately $9 billion in research and development and capital expenditures from 1995 through 2000. The two companies also have previous alliances to research other disorders worth a total of $71 million. They initially collaborated in 1995 to focus on gene discovery research for asthma, obesity, and osteoporosis.

--Joe D'Allegro

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