Human Genome teams with Vical; Companies to share data to quicken drug development

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Human Genome Sciences Inc. said yesterday that it will share part of its gene database with a San Diego-based biotech company as part of an agreement to quicken the development of promising drugs.

In return, Rockville-based Human Genome has the option to license the DNA gene-delivery technology developed by Vical Inc. for use in up to three gene-based products. Vical can license up to three genes from Human Genome's proprietary genomics database for gene-based product development.

"We are delighted to collaborate with Vical in applying our considerable genomics database in the development of DNA-based pharmaceutical products," said William A. Haseltine, chairman and chief executive officer of Human Genome.

Vical's "naked DNA delivery technology" allows genes to enter the body without being bundled with a virus.

The agreement also calls for Vical to grant a license to a third company, Vascular Genetics Inc., for "naked DNA delivery" of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-2 -- a gene-based therapy for treating an advanced form of peripheral artery disease known as critical limb ischemia.

Vascular Genetics Inc., based in Triangle Park, N.C., is a privately held company in which Human Genome is a major shareholder.

"We have identified the potential value in combining gene discovery and gene delivery," said Dr. Alain B. Schreiber, president and chief executive officer of Vical.

Vical's shares rose on the news, closing at $61.50, up $4.25, or 7.4 percent. Human Genome shares closed at $206, down $12.06, or 5.5 percent.

"It's more important for Vical than for Human Genome Sciences," said Carl L. Gordon, an analyst with OrbiMed Advisors, a health care investment management firm. "This deal is the bringing together of genomics and gene therapy."

Leslie Wright Marino, an analyst at Robertson Stephens, compared the deal to trading baseball cards. "They're saying, 'I'll give you my genes and you give me your technology and we'll try to develop some technologies.'"

Bloomberg News contributed to this article.

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