ML Labs, which last week bought inhaled drug delivery company Quadrant for €70m, said yesterday that US biotechnology firm Maxygen had signed a commercial licence agreement for the technology. It also announces that the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued a second patent for UCOE.
The news bolsters the value of the technology, which is seen as a non-core asset for ML Labs now that it has re-invented itself as a company with a strong emphasis on inhaled drug delivery via its Innovata Biomed subsidiary. ML Labs said last week it plans to change its name to Innovata to reflect this new focus.
The UCOE (Ubiquitous Chromatin Opening Element) gene expression technology is claimed to improve the yield, consistency and stability of protein production in cultured mammalian cells, allowing simpler and quicker generation of proteins at small scale for drug discovery, as well as quicker and easier isolation of stable, highly productive cell lines suitable for larger-scale manufacture of protein therapeutics. Further applications of the technology include gene therapy, transgenics and generation of cell lines for drug screening, according to ML Labs.
Maxygen develops improved versions of existing protein pharmaceuticals, combining molecular biology and protein modification to create novel biotechnology products. The new agreement extends a prior research licence for the UCOE technology, signed in February 2003. The licence agreement announced today allows Maxygen to use the technology for the development and commercialisation of its portfolio of therapeutic proteins.
The second patent (No 6,881,556) awarded to ML for UCOE covers the use of DNA elements that enhance the efficiency of protein production in mammalian cells by prevention of gene silencing. The original broad US patent (6,689,606) was issued in 2004.
Kieran Murphy, ML Labs' CEO, "we believe that the developments announced today will strengthen our offering as we seek to divest non-core assets as part of the ongoing restructuring process. Discussions regarding the divestment of non-core assets are currently progressing, according to the company.
ML has already licensed UCOEs to a number of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in North America, Europe and Japan.