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Schering-Plough Signs Genomics, Database Agreements with Genome Therapeutics

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MADISON, NJ--Pharmaceutical manufacturer Schering-Plough here and genomics company Genome Therapeutics have announced a new collaboration in which they will utilize genomics to discover and develop products to treat fungal infections. Under terms of the deal, Genome Therapeutics will use its bioinformatics and other capabilities to identify drug discovery targets, while Plough will receive exclusive access to genomic information related to two fungal pathogens, Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus, that results from the collaboration.

The companies have previously worked together researching antiinfective agents and asthma. In the antiinfective area, on October 2 Genome Therapeutics announced that it has reached its fourth milestone in a $43.5 million alliance that was initiated in December 1995. The asthma deal was signed in December 1996.

In a separate agreement, Plough has become the third subscriber to Genome Therapeutics' PathoGenome microbial database. The company joins Bayer, which came on board in May, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, which signed up last month, as subscribers to the proprietary information that was first made available earlier this year. There are currently a dozen pathogens in the database, according to Bernd Seizinger, Genome Therapeutics' chief scientific officer. "Researchers can review the sequence information across the different organisms using the database. The same commands and nomenclature allow clients to go from one organism to another, which is helpful for identifying targets," he told BioInform.

The database agreement specifies that Plough will pay Genome Therapeutics subscription fees and royalties on any small molecules developed as a result of access to PathoGenome, which Seizinger called the "most comprehensive" commercial database of microbial information available. "This database will provide corporate subscribers with an unprecedented volume of highly organized and functionally annotated sequence information related to some of the most clinically and commercially important bacteria and fungi," he added.

"From our experience in working with Genome Therapeutics we were confident that the PathoGenome database provided a comprehensive source of clinically and commercially important bacterial and fungal genomic sequencing information," observed Plough's Ron Asinari.

Commenting on the latest collaboration, Cecil Pickett, executive vice-president of Plough's Research Institute, remarked, "This new agreement expands our relationship with Genome Thera peutics to identify and sequence genes essential to microbial survival."

"We have been extremely pleased with the rapid pace of progress in our existing alliances with Schering-Plough in the areas of antiinfectives and asthma," added Robert Hennessey, Genome Therapeutics' chairman, president, and CEO. "Schering-Plough has demonstrated an impressive desire to utilize genomic information to aggressively combat emerging medical crises such as bacterial resistance. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with them to address the rising incidence of severe fungal infections."

The partnership agreement specifies that Genome Therapeutics retains certain rights to vaccines, diagnostics, and plant products that may result from the collaboration. Plough will fund a multiyear research program and pay Genome Therapeutics fees, milestone payments, and royalties based on sales of any therapeutic products that may be developed. If all milestones are met and the project continues for its full expected term, Genome Therapeutics will collect around $33 million plus royalties.

--Judy Pokras

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