PORTLAND, Ore. and PULLMAN, Wash. -- Exelixis Plant Sciences Inc. and Washington State University Research Foundation today announced a commercial license agreement covering patent rights and biological materials for the production of paclitaxel and other valuable taxane products from plant cell culture.

Under the agreement, EPS has agreed to use its ongoing cell factory and metabolic engineering programs to develop efficient methods for the production of paclitaxel and taxane intermediates used to produce paclitaxel, docetaxel and other semi-synthetic taxanes for pharmaceutical applications.

EPS and WSURF had previously agreed to a research license for these patent rights and biological materials under which EPS has advanced the development of its taxane cell factory program. The rights granted by WSURF under this commercial license are related to pioneering discoveries made in the laboratory of National Academy of Sciences member Rodney Croteau in the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University.

"Exelixis Plant Sciences' expertise in cell culture and metabolic engineering has enabled EPS to develop several new product opportunities," said D. Ry Wagner, vice president of research, plant genetics and biotechnology at Exelixis Plant Sciences. "There is a clear need for efficient, reliable and environmentally responsible methods of production of important natural products such as taxanes, and with this agreement EPS has taken a significant step toward meeting this need."

Keith Jones, executive director at the Washington State University Research Foundation, said, "This technology represents decades of effort from Dr. Croteau and his paclitaxel research team at Washington State University. We are pleased to take the science to the next stage in the commercial development by partnering with EPS. We believe our research has the potential to have a major impact on paclitaxel production methods."

Paclitaxel and other taxanes, such as docetaxel (marketed as Taxotere by Sanofi-Aventis), are important therapeutic compounds for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. The market for paclitaxel and newer generation taxane active ingredients is large and growing, with the supply of paclitaxel or taxane intermediates largely derived from the harvest of Yew trees.

Cell culture holds the potential for an environmentally friendly, less capital intensive and more reliable method of production that can generate large quantities of paclitaxel and taxane intermediates at costs significantly lower than those of current methods.

Exelixis Plant Sciences Inc., based in Portland, Oregon, has been a leader in utilizing "plants as factories" to produce high-value compounds that occur naturally in plant cells. In addition, there are opportunities to use the plant's biological machinery to engineer the production of pharmaceuticals more efficiently and economically than traditional methods.

EPS has collaborations with leading companies in the agricultural industry. In the area of crop improvement and protection, EPS is leveraging its expertise in target identification and high-throughput screening to develop crops with superior yield, improved nutritional profiles, optimum oil content and protein composition, and to develop plants with high levels of valuable biochemical compounds.

Exelixis Plant Sciences is a wholly owned subsidiary of Exelixis, Inc., South San Francisco, CA. For more information, please visit .

The Washington State University Research Foundation is a non-profit Washington corporation that facilitates the efficient transfer of technology, proprietary information, and materials from the Washington State University to the private sector for the purpose of increasing the impact of research conducted at WSU. The WSURF functions under the mandate of the dissemination of knowledge created at WSU and fostering and promoting the public, scientific, and commercial value of inventions, discoveries and processes developed at WSU.

Exelixis and the Exelixis logo are registered U.S. trademarks.

SOURCE: Exelixis Plant Sciences Inc. via PR Newswire.