AVI BioPharma and Exelixis Form Strategic Alliance on Functional Genomics and Antisense Drug Development

Apr 27, 2001, 01:00 ET from Exelixis, Inc.

    PORTLAND, Ore. and SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., April 27 /PRNewswire/ --
 AVI BioPharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: AVII; AVIIW; AVIIZ) and
 Exelixis Inc. (Nasdaq: EXEL) announced today that they entered a strategic
 alliance for antisense drug discovery research and development.  Under the
 terms of the five-year agreement, AVI will provide its proprietary NeuGene(R)
 morpholino antisense agents to Exelixis and its German subsidiary, Artemis
 Pharmaceuticals GmbH, in order to systematically and comprehensively define
 gene function in vivo on a genome-wide scale in zebrafish and other model
 organisms.
     Exelixis will apply its expertise in genetic model systems to discover,
 validate and screen novel targets suitable for inhibition by antisense
 therapeutics. AVI will design and synthesize NeuGene morpholinos for use as
 drugs and conduct preclinical and clinical studies on antisense drug
 candidates arising from the collaboration. The two companies will jointly own,
 and Exelixis has an option to co-develop with AVI, certain novel antisense
 products that arise from the alliance.
     NeuGene antisense agents have been shown to work very effectively in
 zebrafish and other animal model systems to characterize gene function, and
 will be used by Exelixis and Artemis in high-throughput gene inactivation.
 This important technology, in conjunction with other proprietary tools, will
 facilitate functional analysis of the majority of the 30,000 genes in the
 zebrafish genome. Zebrafish are a favorite species of developmental biologists
 because of their rapid growth and transparent bodies that allow easy study of
 many body processes such as angiogenesis.
     Denis R. Burger, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AVI said, "Key to this
 agreement is the quick development time it promises. When we define the
 function of a gene with NeuGenes, we don't have to go back and spend three to
 five years in drug development, because the NeuGene antisense agent that was
 used to define gene function is the drug.  We believe our targeting advantage
 with the NeuGene morpholino technology, a leading antisense technology, has
 the potential to rapidly define gene function in a single step, in a manner
 that we believe eliminates the trial and error methods that are so problematic
 with previous generations of antisense."
     AVI is the only genomics-based drug development company working with
 third-generation antisense technology. Exelixis has the broadest available
 array of proprietary model systems and comparative genomics technologies,
 which it is using as a basis for its drug development and partnering
 activities.  With this collaboration in place, AVI and Exelixis believe they
 strengthen their leading roles in functional genomics-based drug discovery.
     Peter Stadler, Ph.D., Managing Director of Artemis, and Exelixis board
 member stated, "Exelixis, through Artemis, has the most advanced zebrafish
 genetics program in the world. We recently have completed the largest genetic
 screen ever carried out in a vertebrate system, and we are convinced that
 AVI's NeuGene morpholinos are an extremely powerful tool to identify and
 validate high-quality drug targets for a number of major human diseases. We
 plan to immediately use these tools in our angiogenesis and oncology programs
 and will expand their use into other diseases as we move forward."
     In addition to licensing and development rights, Exelixis will pay AVI for
 the manufacture of antisense agents it uses for gene function validation
 through the five-year term of the agreement.  Additional co-development and
 other financial terms of the alliance have not been disclosed.
 
     About AVI BioPharma Inc.
     AVI BioPharma develops therapeutic products for the treatment of
 life-threatening diseases using two technology platforms: cancer immunotherapy
 and gene-targeted drugs. Its lead clinical agent, Avicine(TM), a therapeutic
 cancer vaccine, has completed enrollment in a Phase II trial in pancreatic
 cancer and is in a Phase III pivotal trial in colorectal cancer. The first
 application of its NeuGene compounds, Resten-NG, is designed to treat cancer,
 cardiovascular restenosis and other cell proliferation disorders by inhibiting
 the production of a cellular transcription factor,
 c-myc. It is currently in Phase II trials for restenosis. More information
 about AVI is available on the Company's website at http://www.avibio.com .
 
     About Exelixis, Inc.
     Exelixis is a leading life sciences biotechnology company focused on
 product development through its expertise in comparative genomics and model
 system genetics. The acquisition of Artemis, scheduled to close at the end of
 April, creates a single, worldwide biopharmaceutical company with a broad
 array of biological systems and other tools for the rapid identification of
 genes and accurate assessment of their role in modulating disease processes.
 Exelixis' proprietary model systems and comparative genomics technologies
 address gene function by using biologically relevant functional genomics
 information very early on in the process to rapidly, efficiently and cost-
 effectively translate sequence data to knowledge about the function of genes
 and the proteins that they encode.  The company has a significant internal
 cancer discovery and drug development program. Exelixis believes that its
 technology is broadly applicable to all life science industries including
 pharmaceutical, diagnostic, agricultural biotechnology and animal health and
 the company has active partnerships with Aventis, Bayer, Pharmacia, Bristol-
 Myers Squibb and Dow AgroSciences.
     "Safe Harbor" Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act
 of 1995.  The statements that are not historical facts contained in this
 release are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties,
 but not limited to, information regarding the ability of Exelixis to use the
 licensed technology for high-throughput gene inactivation in zebrafish, the
 ability of AVI to develop unique antisense compounds and the ability of the
 parties to reach agreement on co-development terms for compounds, if any, that
 are identified in this collaboration.  These forward-looking statements
 involve risks and uncertainties that could cause the results of Exelixis and
 AVI to differ materially from current expectations.  Other risks are detailed
 in the companies respective Securities and Exchange Commission filings,
 including Exelixis' Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31,
 2000 and AVI's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2000
 as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
     NOTE:  Exelixis and the Exelixis logo are registered U.S. trademarks.
 Neugene is a registered U.S. trademark and Avicine is a trademark of AVI
 BioPharma, Inc.
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X74893388
 
 

SOURCE Exelixis, Inc.
    PORTLAND, Ore. and SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., April 27 /PRNewswire/ --
 AVI BioPharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: AVII; AVIIW; AVIIZ) and
 Exelixis Inc. (Nasdaq: EXEL) announced today that they entered a strategic
 alliance for antisense drug discovery research and development.  Under the
 terms of the five-year agreement, AVI will provide its proprietary NeuGene(R)
 morpholino antisense agents to Exelixis and its German subsidiary, Artemis
 Pharmaceuticals GmbH, in order to systematically and comprehensively define
 gene function in vivo on a genome-wide scale in zebrafish and other model
 organisms.
     Exelixis will apply its expertise in genetic model systems to discover,
 validate and screen novel targets suitable for inhibition by antisense
 therapeutics. AVI will design and synthesize NeuGene morpholinos for use as
 drugs and conduct preclinical and clinical studies on antisense drug
 candidates arising from the collaboration. The two companies will jointly own,
 and Exelixis has an option to co-develop with AVI, certain novel antisense
 products that arise from the alliance.
     NeuGene antisense agents have been shown to work very effectively in
 zebrafish and other animal model systems to characterize gene function, and
 will be used by Exelixis and Artemis in high-throughput gene inactivation.
 This important technology, in conjunction with other proprietary tools, will
 facilitate functional analysis of the majority of the 30,000 genes in the
 zebrafish genome. Zebrafish are a favorite species of developmental biologists
 because of their rapid growth and transparent bodies that allow easy study of
 many body processes such as angiogenesis.
     Denis R. Burger, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AVI said, "Key to this
 agreement is the quick development time it promises. When we define the
 function of a gene with NeuGenes, we don't have to go back and spend three to
 five years in drug development, because the NeuGene antisense agent that was
 used to define gene function is the drug.  We believe our targeting advantage
 with the NeuGene morpholino technology, a leading antisense technology, has
 the potential to rapidly define gene function in a single step, in a manner
 that we believe eliminates the trial and error methods that are so problematic
 with previous generations of antisense."
     AVI is the only genomics-based drug development company working with
 third-generation antisense technology. Exelixis has the broadest available
 array of proprietary model systems and comparative genomics technologies,
 which it is using as a basis for its drug development and partnering
 activities.  With this collaboration in place, AVI and Exelixis believe they
 strengthen their leading roles in functional genomics-based drug discovery.
     Peter Stadler, Ph.D., Managing Director of Artemis, and Exelixis board
 member stated, "Exelixis, through Artemis, has the most advanced zebrafish
 genetics program in the world. We recently have completed the largest genetic
 screen ever carried out in a vertebrate system, and we are convinced that
 AVI's NeuGene morpholinos are an extremely powerful tool to identify and
 validate high-quality drug targets for a number of major human diseases. We
 plan to immediately use these tools in our angiogenesis and oncology programs
 and will expand their use into other diseases as we move forward."
     In addition to licensing and development rights, Exelixis will pay AVI for
 the manufacture of antisense agents it uses for gene function validation
 through the five-year term of the agreement.  Additional co-development and
 other financial terms of the alliance have not been disclosed.
 
     About AVI BioPharma Inc.
     AVI BioPharma develops therapeutic products for the treatment of
 life-threatening diseases using two technology platforms: cancer immunotherapy
 and gene-targeted drugs. Its lead clinical agent, Avicine(TM), a therapeutic
 cancer vaccine, has completed enrollment in a Phase II trial in pancreatic
 cancer and is in a Phase III pivotal trial in colorectal cancer. The first
 application of its NeuGene compounds, Resten-NG, is designed to treat cancer,
 cardiovascular restenosis and other cell proliferation disorders by inhibiting
 the production of a cellular transcription factor,
 c-myc. It is currently in Phase II trials for restenosis. More information
 about AVI is available on the Company's website at http://www.avibio.com .
 
     About Exelixis, Inc.
     Exelixis is a leading life sciences biotechnology company focused on
 product development through its expertise in comparative genomics and model
 system genetics. The acquisition of Artemis, scheduled to close at the end of
 April, creates a single, worldwide biopharmaceutical company with a broad
 array of biological systems and other tools for the rapid identification of
 genes and accurate assessment of their role in modulating disease processes.
 Exelixis' proprietary model systems and comparative genomics technologies
 address gene function by using biologically relevant functional genomics
 information very early on in the process to rapidly, efficiently and cost-
 effectively translate sequence data to knowledge about the function of genes
 and the proteins that they encode.  The company has a significant internal
 cancer discovery and drug development program. Exelixis believes that its
 technology is broadly applicable to all life science industries including
 pharmaceutical, diagnostic, agricultural biotechnology and animal health and
 the company has active partnerships with Aventis, Bayer, Pharmacia, Bristol-
 Myers Squibb and Dow AgroSciences.
     "Safe Harbor" Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act
 of 1995.  The statements that are not historical facts contained in this
 release are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties,
 but not limited to, information regarding the ability of Exelixis to use the
 licensed technology for high-throughput gene inactivation in zebrafish, the
 ability of AVI to develop unique antisense compounds and the ability of the
 parties to reach agreement on co-development terms for compounds, if any, that
 are identified in this collaboration.  These forward-looking statements
 involve risks and uncertainties that could cause the results of Exelixis and
 AVI to differ materially from current expectations.  Other risks are detailed
 in the companies respective Securities and Exchange Commission filings,
 including Exelixis' Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31,
 2000 and AVI's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2000
 as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
     NOTE:  Exelixis and the Exelixis logo are registered U.S. trademarks.
 Neugene is a registered U.S. trademark and Avicine is a trademark of AVI
 BioPharma, Inc.
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X74893388
 
 SOURCE  Exelixis, Inc.