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Caprion, Abbott Renew Antibody Target Deal as Caprion Continues Buyer Search

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As it continues to search for a buyer, Caprion Proteomics last week announced that it has extended its collaboration with Abbott Laboratories to identify and use cancer antibody targets.
 
The deal calls for the companies to use Caprion’s CellCarta proteomics platform to evaluate cell-surface drug targets by comparing plasma membrane proteins in normal tissues with cancer tissues. Under the original deal, forged in 2004, Abbott had exclusive, worldwide rights to develop selected targets and to commercialize products resulting from the deal. [See PM 02/06/04]. The extension gives Abbott exclusive rights for up to two years to 10 lung cancer targets found by Caprion.
 
In a statement, the companies said that Caprion may receive future payments if Abbott achieves certain research and development milestones. Caprion would also receive royalties on the sale of future products resulting from the agreement.
 
No further financial terms of the deal were disclosed.
 
According to Caprion President Martin LeBlanc, Abbott has confirmed the overexpression of the target proteins in tumors identified from the first phase of the alliance and has developed antibodies against the targets. Abbott is now in the therapeutic-development stage.
 
Abbott did not respond to a request for an interview. In a statement, Stephen Fesik, divisional vice president of cancer research for the company, said, “From day one, the partnership with Caprion has resulted in a series of potential therapeutic antibody targets for oncology, and this extension will provide the additional time required to complete the pre-clinical evaluation of the 10 targets we have selected during the course of our agreement.”
 
Last week’s announcement comes as Caprion faces an uncertain future. The company, based in Montreal, is the remnant of a company once called Caprion Pharmaceuticals, which earlier this year merged with Ecopia BioSciences to form Thallion Pharmaceuticals, a company specializing in oncology and infectious diseases [See PM 01/11/07].
 
As part of the merger, Caprion Pharmaceuticals transferred the proteomic IP and other assets into a general partnership, Caprion Proteomics, owned by Thallion, with the intent to sell that business within a year.
 
In an interview with ProteoMonitor this week, LeBlanc said that Caprion achieved a “moderate” profit in 2006, and while the “For Sale” sign remains standing, the company can afford to patiently wait for the right offer.
 
“We’re confident that we can find such a strategic partner within the year period that we’ve given ourselves, but as long as [Caprion is] profitable, it could remain as an independent entity within Thallion, if need be, because really it’s not a cash drain on the business,” LeBlanc said.
 

“It is still our strategic goal to find an alternative buyer for this kind of business because it doesn’t really fit that well with the therapeutic development and more classical biotech development mission of Thallion.”

But, he added, “it is still our strategic goal to find an alternative buyer for this kind of business because it doesn’t really fit that well with the therapeutic development and more classical biotech development mission of Thallion.”
 
In the meantime, the company is still looking for collaborations and partnerships with other firms. Along with licensing deals such as the one with Abbott, Caprion provides fee-for-service work for biomarker discovery. Past and current partners for such work include Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Boehringer Ingelheim.
 
Caprion’s flagship proteomics technology is the CellCarta platform, which was once viewed by the company as the vehicle to an economic windfall. CellCarta uses proprietary expertise in cell fractionation, protein purification, mass spectrometry, and bioinformatics data analysis to analyze protein content in large sets of biological samples.
 
By simultaneously tracking more than 25,000 peptides contained in a sample, researchers can identify proteins whose levels change according to states of health and disease, or as a result of drug therapy.
 
Founded in 1998, Caprion Pharmaceuticals announced last May its intention to go public, but withdrew its initial public offering less than three months later after the investment community greeted it with a cold shoulder [See PM 08/03/06].
 
Then in January, the company decided to focus all its resources on developing drugs for infectious diseases and cancer when it merged with Ecopia. At the time, Lloyd Segal, formerly president and CEO of Caprion Pharmaceuticals, said that the decision to sell off Caprion Proteomics should not be interpreted as an abandonment of the proteomics field.
 

“Our intention is to always keep an ability to practice the distinctive and proprietary technologies that we have, but to separate out the service business that we operate from our core clinical and drug development business,” Segal, now CEO of Thallion, said at the time.

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