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Exelixis and Bayer Sign Crop Genetics Alliance

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SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--Exelixis Pharmaceuticals here and international chemical and pharmaceutical company, Bayer AG of Leverkusen, Germany, announced the signing of a genetics collaboration to identify novel screening targets for the development of new crop protection agents.

Bayer will receive access to Exelixis's expertise in model system genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics, and Exelixis may receive up to $30 million in license fees, research support, and milestone payments based on program success. In addition, Exelixis will receive royalties paid on Bayer's sale of any product arising from the collaboration.

Exelixis will utilize its proprietary PathFinder technology, FlyTag drosophila expressed sequence tag (EST) database, and bioinformatics tools to identify and validate novel targets and to develop assays for high-throughput screening. The collaboration also includes Exelixis's development of a novel EST database for a pest species of strategic importance to Bayer. Bayer will utilize assays developed by Exelixis to screen against its extensive libraries of chemical compounds, will evaluate lead structures in vivo and will develop and commercialize crop protection products.

George Scangos, CEO of Exelixis, told BioInform the collaboration draws on Exelixis's drosophila and insect species databases, but "the real issue is that you need some functional testing to make sure the targets have the characteristics you want them to." Scangos said Exelixis will provide Bayer with functional analysis of the data.

The collaboration is Exelixis's first with a major life science company, but Scangos said he anticipated entering a series of collaborations in the drug and agricultural arenas in the next 12-18 months. Of the company's launch into the agriculture industry Scangos said, "As part of our work focused in pharmaceuticals we gained a detailed understanding of similarities between insect and human genomes. It seemed like a natural outgrowth to pursue agriculture. Conceptually it's very similar."

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