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Aurora Biosciences Announces Two Functional Genomics CollaborationsWith Merck & Co.Inc.

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Aurora Biosciences Corporation (Nasdaq: ABSC) today announced two new collaborations with Merck & Co., Inc. in the area of functional genomics. Under each collaboration agreement, Aurora will utilize aspects of its GenomeScreen(TM) technology to investigate cell signaling pathways and gene function related to selected Merck therapeutic programs. Merck will receive a license to use the data and materials resulting from the program, in basic research and drug discovery. Aurora will receive an upfront payment from Merck for the new collaborations, with the potential for additional research support fees, as well as certain provisions for additional revenues in the event that drugs developed are commercialized as a result of the collaboration.

"Merck's selection of Aurora's genomics technology for its important therapeutic programs is an indication of the value it can provide," said John D. Mendlein, J.D., Ph.D., Aurora's senior vice president, intellectual property and chief knowledge officer. "These new collaborations highlight the versatile nature of Aurora's GenomeScreen(TM) technology. We anticipate growing interest from existing and potential customers wishing to use the GenomeScreen(TM) technology as a novel, functional approach to target identification, pathway mapping and assay development."

"We are excited to extend our relationship with Merck to genomics and we anticipate future interactions using our innovative technologies to facilitate more intense, focused lead discovery," commented Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, Ph.D., Aurora's vice president, genomics...

Aurora's GenomeScreen(TM) technology enables gene discovery, target identification, and signal pathway elucidation; in parallel one can produce large numbers of cell-based screening assays for therapeutically-focused lead discovery. Because of its sensitive fluorescence readout, enzymatic amplification and compatibility with miniaturized screening with living cells, beta-lactamase has significant advantages over other reporter genes. Highly efficient fluorescence-activated cell sorting allows the rapid analysis and selection of useful clones from tagged cell lines. The resulting cell clones represent cell-based assays that sensitively report up- or down-regulation of gene expression in response to a wide range of biologic, chemical or pathologic stimulation.

In July 1999, Aurora was issued a patent related to methods involving use of Aurora's beta-lactamase reporter technology (GeneBLAzer(TM)) in promotorless vectors, for genome-wide tagging of genes in human or other cells. In addition to commercial genomics collaborations with Warner-Lambert and Becton Dickinson, the Company has been awarded two genomics research grants from the National Institutes of Health and initiated a collaboration earlier this year with the National Cancer Institute focusing on the capture of rare, low-abundance genes in major human cancer cell lines to support an aspect of "genome closure" in the Institute's Cancer Gene Anatomy Project.

Aurora combines innovative biotechnology with its novel, high-technology automation and software to provide solutions to challenges in drug discovery for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The Company's core technologies include a broad portfolio of proprietary fluorescence assay technologies; its functional genomics GenomeScreen(TM) program; and its ultra- high throughput screening system (UHTSS(TM) Platform) and subsystems to miniaturize and automate assays derived from those technologies within a computer-controlled integrated system, capable of searching through expansive libraries of compounds to identify those that might lead to new medicines. Aurora seeks to become a leader in providing services, technology and information that enhance and accelerate its customers' ability to discover new therapeutics through three main strategies: (1) providing customized drug discovery services, allowing the customer to outsource some part or all of its discovery needs, (2) developing and selling systems, instruments and technologies to augment the customer's own discovery efforts, and (3) licensing the Company's growing intellectual property portfolio. Current customers include Becton Dickinson Company, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Clontech Laboratories, Inc., Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Cytovia, Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, Exelixis Pharmaceuticals, F.Hoffmann-LaRoche Ltd., Genentech, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., National Cancer Institute, Pfizer, Inc., and Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc and Warner-Lambert. For additional information on Aurora's services and products, please contact Sales and Marketing via email at or by phone at (858) 404-8508.

Statements in this press release that are not strictly historical are "forward-looking" statements which involve a high degree of risk and uncertainty. Such forward-looking statements include statements regarding the potential use of the GenomeScreen(TM) technology, Aurora's ability to successfully identify gene targets using the GenomeScreen(TM) technology, additional collaborations based on the GenomeScreen(TM) technology and the likelihood that commercial drug products may be developed under the collaboration with Merck & Co, Inc. Such statements are only predictions and the actual events or results may differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to differences include risks involved with the Company's new and uncertain technology, risks associated with the dependence on patents and proprietary rights, risks associated with the drug discovery and development process, the ability to attract additional collaborative partners, dependence on existing pharmaceutical and biotechnology collaborations, and the development or availability of competing systems. These factors and others are more fully described in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 1998 and subsequent Forms 10-Q, as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. For additional corporate information, visit the Aurora website at

UHTSS(TM), GenomeScreen(TM) and GeneBLAzer(TM) are trademarks of Aurora Biosciences Corporation.

SOURCE Aurora Biosciences Corporation

CO: Aurora Biosciences Corporation; Merck & Co., Inc.

ST: California



11/30/1999 16:03 EST

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