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Multi-Million Dollar Deal to Benefit Medical Research

LONDON and LA JOLLA, CA, October 26, 2005—The Medical Research Council is to receive US$191m as part of one of the biggest deals to come out of breakthroughs by British scientists. The money comes from the development of a drug created using patented technology which arose from research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and The Scripps Research Institute.

The drug, HUMIRA®, is so far used to treat rheumatoid arthritis but has other applications in the pipeline. The Scripps Research Institute and the American company, Stratagene will share US$64m as part of the agreement.

The technology, developed by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, was the basis for the setting up of Cambridge Antibody Technology Ltd in 1990 as a business.

The American pharmaceutical company, Abbott has agreed to pay (via Cambridge Antibody Technology) US$255 million in place of the future royalties the MRC, Scripps Research and Stratagene would have received on sales of HUMIRA®. In addition, Cambridge Antibody Technology will pay the MRC a further US$7.5m over five years from 2006, providing that HUMIRA® remains on the market.

The MRC patents cover a series of inventions made by Sir Gregory Winter and his colleagues at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology during the late 1980s and early 1990s for making ‘human monoclonal antibodies’.

Sir Gregory commented "Our inventions originated from pure curiosity-driven and long-term basic research funded at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology by the MRC. Provided such research is intelligently and quickly exploited, it can pay handsome dividends for medicine, UK industry and human health. It can also generate considerable royalty income, which ploughed back into science will help generate the medicines and industries of the future."

Professor Colin Blakemore, the MRC Chief Executive added “This deal is great news for British science. It shows the wonderful achievements that can be won for human health when the Medical Research Council works with industry. It also gives the UK an opportunity to reap the rewards from our past discoveries to make the fullest possible investment in future science. The agreement will help us give our scientists new research facilities and the best laboratories. We also want to invest in initiatives which will help us to translate cutting-edge scientific research into healthcare for all”.

The related Scripps Research patents cover inventions which hailed from the laboratory of Dr. Richard A. Lerner, president of the Institute. Dr. Lerner said, “It is wonderful to see the work from our two laboratories come together to benefit so many patients suffering from a variety of serious conditions.”

Although the scientists from MRC and Scripps Research were scientific competitors in earlier years, they pooled their inventions in Cambridge Antibody Technology to facilitate exploitation of the technology for creation of new medicines.

Notes for Editors:

Monoclonal Antibodies. These are often referred to as ‘magic bullets’. They are custom-made protein molecules that have been designed to home in on specific targets. Dr César Milstein and Dr George Köhler discovered how to make monoclonal antibodies at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Their work earned them the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1984. It has led to therapeutic products for breast cancer, leukaemia, asthma and transplant rejection; many more are in late stage clinical trials.

HUMIRA® is the first fully human monoclonal antibody to be approved by the American Food and Drug Administration and was developed using combinatorial antibody libraries, on which the founding of Cambridge Antibody Technology was based. It is currently approved only for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, but it is also in clinical trials for use in other indications including Phase III trials for use in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a national organisation funded by the UK tax-payer. Its business is medical research aimed at improving human health; everyone stands to benefit from the outputs. The research it supports and the scientists it trains meet the needs of the health services, the pharmaceutical and other health-related industries and the academic world. MRC has funded work which has led to some of the most significant discoveries and achievements in medicine in the UK. About half of the MRC’s expenditure of approximately £500 million is invested in its 40 Institutes, Units and Centres. The remaining half goes in the form of grant support and training awards to individuals and teams in universities and medical schools. Web site at: http://www.mrc.ac.uk


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