SmithKline Beecham Plc announced an alliance yesterday with a small Rockville biotech company that could give the pharmaceutical giant access to a wealth of research on human genes.
The two companies said they would work to convert the gene data into drugs and diagnostic products and services.
But Human Genome Sciences Inc. said it retained the rights to use the information to develop gene therapy and other products, which could be a significant segment of its new products, according to its new chief executive and chairman, William A. Haseltine.
Human Genome Sciences was formed last year and has not developed any products. However, the company has access to a powerhouse of genetic research as well as a large source of capital from Healthcare Investment Corp., a New Jersey venture capital fund.
The venture capitalists lured Dr. J. Craig Venter, a leading scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, to leave his position there and run a private research institute in Maryland.
The venture capitalists agreed to give Dr. Venter, through Human Genome Sciences, $70 million over the next 10 years to accelerate his research.
Dr. Venter's work became controversial when NIH attempted to patent his gene fragments, though no one knew what the full genes do or where they are located among the 100,000 genes in the human body.
SmithKline Beecham would receive the exclusive worldwide +V rights to therapeutic vaccine and diagnostic products and services developed from the gene data identified under the collaboration.
Dr. Haseltine declined to discuss the financial details or the extent to which the SmithKline would have access to his company's or Dr. Venter's research.