UPDATE 2-Genmab secures rights to antibody from Medarex

(Adds details, wraps previous news)

COPENHAGEN, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Danish biotech firm Genmab GEN.CO said it had secured full rights to its drug candidate HuMax-Inflam through an asset exchange with partner Medarex MEDX.O.

Under the terms of the deal, Genmab will get full rights to the antibody, which targets inflammatory conditions and cancer, and Medarex will receive full rights to multiple disease programmes in oncology.

Genmab and Medarex will release to each other all previously held economic interests in the exchanged assets, the Danish firm said in a statement on Thursday.

In pre-clinical tests, HuMax-Inflam inhibited tumour growth in mice, Genmab said. The antibody is directed to interleukin-8, a protein secreted by cells.

“Genmab is currently preparing an improved commercially viable cell line for HuMax-Inflam and hopes to start the next phase of clinical trials in 2008,” the company said.

By 0842 GMT, Genmab shares were 0.2 percent higher at 325 crowns, outperforming the Copenhagen bourse's top-20 OMX index .OMXC20, which was 0.6 percent off.

Initially, Genmab will focus on studies to treat glioblastoma, a cancer of the central nervous system. Other possible indications include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- an umbrella term for a range of lung disorders -- and pustular dermatoses, it said.

Also on Thursday, Genmab said it would start a Phase III head and neck cancer study in cooperation with the Danish Head and Neck Cancer Group with its drug candidate HuMax-EGFr.

Preliminary results from trials are expected in three years. The study will include about 600 previously untreated head and neck cancer patients and patients will be treated with radiotherapy or HuMax-EGFr plus radiotherapy.

Genmab said head and neck cancers account for 3 percent of all cancers in the United States, with 40,000-60,000 cases diagnosed and 12,000 deaths annually.