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By Michael Fitzhugh

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) have agreed to share the risks and potential rewards of jointly developing five monoclonal antibodies from Amgen's clinical inflammation portfolio, including experimental therapies for psoriasis, Crohn's disease, lupus, and other diseases.

Following a $50 million upfront payment made by AstraZeneca to Amgen, the companies will share certain costs and possible profits across multiple indications in inflammatory diseases. AstraZeneca will shoulder 65 percent of the costs through 2014, after which the companies plan to split costs equally.

The collaboration will provide Amgen with new money to progress its portfolio and new development expertise in inflammation and asthma from MedImmune, AstraZeneca's biologics arm, the companies say.

AstraZeneca will lead the development and commercial strategy for AMG 139, AMG 157, and AMG 181, while Amgen will take the lead on AMG 557 and brodalumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets the interleukin 17 cytokine pathway that has been shown to improve the symptoms of psoriasis relative to placebo in a recently completed mid-stage trial. Each development and commercialization program will be jointly governed and managed.

For brodalumab, the furthest along of the compounds, commercial promotion will be split. Amgen will promote the drug for dermatology indications in the United States and Canada, and in rheumatology indications in the United States, Canada, and Europe. AstraZeneca will promote it in respiratory and, initially, in dermatology indications across all territories outside the United States, Canada, and those markets where Amgen has existing partnerships.

The companies have not yet agreed on how to split up responsibilities for promotion of the other molecules.

AstraZeneca already has an extensive portfolio of partnerships, including arrangements with Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck. This new agreement with Amgen fits into a broader effort to externalize its drug discovery work. More such deals are likely on the way research chief Martin Mackay has said. Collaborations with industry and academic partners are likely to take on even greater importance for the company as it follows through with plans announced at the end of January to cut 2,200 research and development jobs. The research cuts, along with other layoffs, could save about $1.6 billion annually by 2014 the company estimates.

Source: Amgen And AstraZeneca To Collaborate On Inflammation Portfolio