Pharmexa Buys the AutoVac TNF-Alpha Pharmaccine


HOERSHOLM, Denmark, Sept. 9, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- Pharmexa has bought back the AutoVac(TM) TNF-alpha pharmaccine from Business Development Finance (Vaekstfonden).

In 1997, Pharmexa signed a license agreement with Ferring. Under this agreement, Ferring was granted certain licence rights to Pharmexa's AutoVac(TM) technology for the development of a therapeutic vaccine ("pharmaccine") against the selfprotein TNF-alpha, which is known to be involved in a number of serious inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. The rights also included a patent application for this specific use of the AutoVac(TM) technology and two human AutoVac(TM) TNF-alpha molecules, which together constitute the product.

The product and the associated rights are now back with Pharmexa. Together with Pharmexa's two breast cancer pharmaccines targeting HER2, it will rank among the company's most highly prioritised research and development projects.

In 2000, Ferring received approval to start clinical phase I/II trials with the AutoVac(TM) TNF-alpha pharmaccine in the U.K. The nonprofit organisation Cancer Research Campaign in London carried out the trials in patients suffering from cachexia, a pathological weight loss associated with an advanced stage of cancer. Owing to the combination of the poor health of these patients in general and certain technical aspects of the current TNF-alpha pharmaccine, however, the trials did not allow testing of the efficacy and safety of the TNF-alpha pharmaccine. Pharmexa has been notified that Ferring has observed induction of anti-TNF-alpha antibodies in the patients, but in the light of recent years' R&D activities in similar pharmaccines, Pharmexa believes that it is possible to develop a TNF-alpha pharmaccine that is superior to the one with which Ferring has been working. Therefore, Pharmexa plans to launch an ambitious R&D programme primarily focusing on rheumatoid arthritis. Pharmexa expects to announce further plans for this programme during the autumn.

Pharmexa will pay a small royalty to Business Development Finance to get the product and the associated rights back. No further details will be disclosed.

Ole KjerulfJensen, managing director of Ferring said: "We have made dedicated efforts to develop the TNF-alpha pharmaccine for a number of years, but have now made a strategic decision to focus on our core areas within therapeutic peptides and other nonproteinbased drugs."

Soeren Mouritsen, CEO of Pharmexa said: "We are very pleased to get the project back. Since we outlicensed the AutoVac(TM) TNF-alpha pharmaccine project to Ferring in 1997, Pharmexa has gained far more experience with the AutoVac(TM) technology, which has also been improved significantly. We intend to target the knowhow that we have acquired in the past five years at one new, stable AutoVac(TM) TNF-alpha pharmaccine molecule in an improved formulation and to start clinical trials for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis as soon as possible. In the past few years, both industrial and university laboratories have confirmed Pharmexa's research results in respect of TNF-alpha, which is therefore a very well validated target for the AutoVac(TM) technology. Anti-TNF-alpha therapy is expected to become one of the fastest growing drug segments in the coming years.

Today, a number of anti-TNF-alpha monoclonal antibodies are in the market, or are about to be approved, and the market is maturing within this segment. Several pharmaceutical companies that do not have any anti-TNF-alpha compounds in their pipelines, but want to enter this attractive market, have displayed a keen interest in a more patientfriendly, financially feasible and efficacious anti-TNF-alpha treatment."

Note to editors: Pharmexa A/S (Copenhagen:PHARMX) is a leading company in the field of therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of serious chronic diseases. Pharmexa's proprietary AutoVac(TM) pharmaccine technology platform is broadly applicable, but the company has focused its resources on a number of cancer forms and chronic inflammatory diseases. Pharmexa's research and development programs are targeted towards breast cancer, asthma, bone degeneration, allergy and neurodegenerative diseases. The Pharmexa Group has entered into collaborative agreements with Lexigen/Merck KGaA, ScheringPlough, H. Lundbeck, NeuroSearch, GlaxoSmithKline, Zycos, Epimmune and AstraZeneca. More information on Pharmexa can be found on

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