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Evogene to evaluate plant-based production of Compugen therapeutic protein candidates


Rehovot, Israel - October 25th, 2004 - Evogene Ltd., a pioneer in plant biotechnology, announced today an agreement with Compugen Ltd. (Nasdaq: CGEN), a genomics based drug and diagnostics discovery company, to evaluate the production of three of Compugen's therapeutic protein candidates using Evogene's proprietary "Plant Made Pharmaceutical" (PMP) platform.

Under the agreement, Compugen will supply the sequence information of three therapeutic protein candidates. The proteins were discovered through the use of its powerful predictive models and discovery engines, and underwent further in-house wet validation. Evogene will study the feasibility of producing these therapeutic protein candidates using its proprietary plant-based protein production platform.

The advent of recombinant DNA technology has resulted in numerous breakthrough biopharmaceutical products in areas such as cancer, autoimmune disease and cardiovascular disease. More than ninety approvals or new indications for biopharmaceuticals have been granted by the FDA since 2000, and more than 1000 protein-based therapeutics are at various stages of development, with 200-300 in late stage clinical trials. Currently, mammalian cell culture is the dominant method for the manufacture of biological products, but mammalian cell culture production is complex and costly. It is characterized by long process development and scale-up times (3-5 years), high and rigid capital requirements ($250M -$500M) and elevated operating costs.

The use of modified plants for human protein production is an area of great interest in the industry, and a number of companies are attempting to create platforms for this purpose. Production of human proteins in plants potentially has substantial economic and qualitative benefits, including reduced health risks from pathogen contamination (such as prions responsible for mad-cow disease) and mammalian viruses (such as HIV and Hepatitis B), lower capital requirements and operating costs, faster scale up and much greater production flexibility. In addition to providing these potential advantages of protein production in plants, Evogene's proprietary platform addresses two of the major bottlenecks inherent in most plant protein production platforms now in development by others: harvesting and extraction of the target protein and its subsequent purification. The uniqueness of Evogene's platform is that it is based on utilizing the existing machinery of a specific plant tissue that naturally produces a very high concentration of a native protein, and the plant tissue allows easy harvesting and extraction of the protein. An additional advantage is that the plant platform has been designed to be grown under containment conditions.

Ofer Haviv, COO & CFO for Evogene, stated: "We are pleased to have the opportunity to validate the development of our plant based protein production platform on Compugen's novel therapeutic protein candidates with real application potential."