Since its inception in 1986, Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc. has been known as a company focused on viral disease, specifically HIV. For the past two years, however, the company has been working quietly on a cancer program that places it among the few private companies with compounds in late-stage clinical trials.

After two years of negotiations, the company obtained exclusive worldwide rights to GMK, a therapeutic vaccine for melanoma, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In addition, Progenics signed an exclusive worldwide license and supply agreement with Cambridge Biotech Corp. (Worcester, Mass.) for use of CBCXE's QS-21 adjuvant in GMK and other ganglioside conjugate vaccines to treat cancer. That deal also took two years, in part because CBCXE is in Chapter 11.