Two companies researching human genes to treat cancer, prevent heart attacks and cure other diseases said Tuesday that they have so many new drug possibilities that they have enlisted two more partners to share the work.
Human Genome Sciences Inc. and SmithKline Beecham--partners in the gene project since 1993--announced research collaborations with U.S. drug maker Schering Plough Corp. and Synthelabo, a big French drug company.
Schering and Synthelabo will pay Human Genome and SmithKline a total of $90 million over five years in exchange for access to Human Genome's massive computer database of nearly all of the roughly 100,000 human genes.
They join two other companies, Japan's Takeda Chemical Industries and Germany's Merck, which have signed similar deals in the last year.
The four new partners will conduct separate research projects, perhaps in competition with each other. If they come up with new drugs, they will have to share the proceeds with Human Genome and SmithKline.
"Working together, Human Genome Sciences and SmithKline Beecham have created more opportunities to develop pioneer pharmaceutical products than either company can develop on its own," William Haseltine, Human Genome Sciences' chairman and chief executive said at a news conference.
Rockville, Md.-based Human Genome Sciences is a small 4-year-old research company. It bought commercial rights to the gene database from its creator, the Institute for Genomic Research, a nonprofit group in nearby Gaithersburg, Md.