Bionomics heads north again for new partnership

By Pete Young
Wednesday, 13 March, 2002

Australia's first publicly-listed pure genomics research company, Bionomics Ltd, has interested a second northern hemisphere partner in its portfolio of patented genes.

The Adelaide biobusiness has entered a collaborative arrangement with Danish biotech Genmab, a $US500 million company, to develop fully human antibodies to angiogenesis targets patented by Bionomics.

The pact calls for the two companies to split R&D costs equally as well as share commercial returns from any products which emerge from their joint venture.

A joint steering committee will convene in Adelaide next month to identify the first targets and schedule ongoing R&D.

Under the agreement, if Genmab fails to produce antibodies for a specific target within two years, the target reverts to Bionomics.

In its ASX announcement of the deal, Bionomics noted it has access to a novel model for rapidly identifying genes critical to the angiogenesis process. "Genmab will use its fully human antibody technology together with its broad antibody development capabilities of biologic assays and animal disease models, to generate and test fully human antibodies to these novel disease targets," the announcement said.

Bionomics will screen antibodies generated by Genmab using its novel angiogenesis model and animal disease models to enable the selection of the most appropriate antibodies.

Working with Genmab will see Bionomics accelerate its product rollout from the lab to clinical use and human benefit because antibody products have shorter development times and lower costs compared to typical small molecule drug development, according to Bionomics CEO Dr Deborah Rathjen.

The new pact puts Bionomics halfway to its target of signing up four northern hemisphere partners this year.

It has already struck up alliances with Hybrigen Inc, targeting breast cancer genes and angiogenesis.

The earlier arrangement does not a create a conflict of interest with the Genmab venture because the Hybrigen agreement involves a small molecule approach rather than antibodies, Rathjen said.

Listed in 1999, Bionomics' sole focus is "to move from gene discovery to a product in the clinic," Rathjen said.

"We want to maximise the value of each of the 230 genes we have in our patent portfolio by ensuring they progress to clinical evaluation either as a therapeutic or diagnostic product."

Diseases that can be treated by angiogenesis-based therapies account for 20 per cent of the US$322 billion global pharmaceuticals market, according to industry estimates.

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