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December 1, 2003
Volume 81, Number 48
CENEAR 81 48 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347


Applied Molecular Evolution will support a biologics push


In a move to bolster its biotech drug discovery and development efforts, Eli Lilly has agreed to acquire protein engineering and optimization firm Applied Molecular Evolution in a cash and stock deal valued at about $400 million.

San Diego-based AME, which applies directed evolution techniques to screen for optimized proteins, will retain its name and operate as a subsidiary of Lilly.

Thomas F. Bumol, Lilly's vice president for biotechnology research, says his company wants to keep biotech drugs--including peptides, proteins, and monoclonal antibodies--at 20% of its development portfolio. Lilly had biotech drug sales, including insulin, of $2.7 billion in 2002, nearly 25% of total sales.

Lilly collaborated with AME on five projects over two years, Bumol says, and decided it wanted greater access to AME technology. "We think it's a great mix with our discovery engine and therapeutic expertise," he adds.

Jeffry D. Watkins, chief scientific officer at AME, claims Lilly will utilize AME's full capacity through work on protein drugs currently in its pipeline.

In all, AME has 16 collaborative drug development projects and seven internal projects in therapeutic areas ranging from cancer to asthma to cocaine abuse. Of these, three projects, developed in collaboration with MedImmune, are in Phase I and II clinical trials.

An AME spokesman says the firm has completed the research component of all its collaborations with non-Lilly partners and plans now to work exclusively with Lilly.

Mara Goldstein, an executive director at CIBC World Markets who covers Lilly, says the acquisition is part of the firm's effort to branch out in biotech beyond insulin and antibiotics. She cites the sepsis drug Xigris (dotrecogin alfa [activated]), a recombinant version of naturally occurring activated protein C, as a recent success.

PRIMO An immunoglobulin G optimized by Applied Molecular Evolution.


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