Two firms collaborate on hemophilia projectGenetic Therapy...


February 23, 1993|By Liz Bowie

Two firms collaborate on hemophilia project

Genetic Therapy Inc. of Gaithersburg and CytoTherapeutics Inc. of Providence, R.I., have agreed to collaborate on research to find a new way to deliver a treatment for hemophilia B.

CytoTherapeutics has developed a semipermeable polymer membrane that could be implanted in a patient's body to deliver a drug. And Genetic Therapy has genetically altered cells that produce a protein called Factor IX to treat hemophilia. The two companies hope to combine the technologies so cells that produce Factor IX are put into the polymer membrane, implanted in the body and slowly released.

The agreement does not call for specific payments from one company to another. Instead, each company will devote research to the project.

Alex. Brown likes 'biopharmaceuticals'

In their 1993 overview for "biopharmaceutical" industry stocks, Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. analysts predict a good year. The Baltimore-based investment firm predicts that the biotech industry will benefit from the Clinton administration's emphasis on cost containment and that several biotech companies will reach milestones in the development of new drugs.

The analysts expect several companies to have key products on the way to Food and Drug Administration approval in the next couple of years. And they say large pharmaceutical companies will increasingly look to biotech companies for help in developing products.

Then again, Alex. Brown's biotechnology forecasts haven't always come true.

The analysts' Jan. 20 report included a strong buy recommendation for Synergen Inc. and a prediction that its flagship drug, Antril, would cure investors' chronic disappointment in biotech stocks. Yesterday, Synergen's stock price fell $28.625, to $13.50 a share -- a drop of 68 percent -- after the company said Antril performed poorly in clinical tests. (See related story on this page.) Alex. Brown downgraded Synergen to "neutral."

Shark may hold key to new antibiotics

The dogfish shark may hold the key to a new class of antibiotics that could be used to cure a range of infections.

Researchers announced last week the discovery of squalamines -- compounds they have been able to synthesize -- that the dogfish shark uses as a defense system.

Dr. Michael Zasloff made the discovery while he was a professor of pediatrics and genetics at the University of Pennsylvania. He now is executive vice president of Magainan Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Philadelphia. Magainan holds exclusive worldwide rights to the squalamines.

In an interview last week, Dr.Zasloff said he made the discovery while giving a paper at the Mount Desert Island Marine Biological Laboratory in Maine, a center for research on the dogfish shark. He became curious about how the female shark was able to keep her young in her uterus for two years free of infection even though she flushed seawater through her reproductive system.

In addition, he said, the sharks were capable of recovering well from horrible surgical procedures, although they have poorly developed immune systems. He and other researchers began to look at the body tissue of the shark and isolated a chemical that was found in relatively high levels in most tissue.

"This turns out to be a very broad-spectrum antibiotic," he said, adding that it is a completely new type of compound, which could be useful on a wide range of infections.

Magainan, which trades over the counter, will probably concentrate on developing a drug to treat intractable infections for which there aren't any other effective treatments.

The first comprehensive tests in animals will begin when the company has begun producing large quantities of a compound.

But perhaps even more intriguing is that "we expect to find it in many different creatures," he said. "We can find antibiotics in almost all animals. We believe they assist the immune system in protecting us from the microbial world around us."

If the squalamines are present in small quantities in man, the trick would be to develop a drug that increases the amount of the squalamines in the body, thus helping the body's own immune system.

Dr. Zasloff also discoverred a topical antibiotic in a frog in 1987. The second phase of testing for that antibiotic began recently.

Scios Nova names 2 to board of directors

Scios Nova Inc. has added William F. Miller, a retired chief executive of SRI International, and Eugene L. Step, a retired Eli Lilly and Co. executive, to its board of directors.

The Mountain View, Calif., biotechnology company, which has research laboratories in Baltimore, said Mr. Miller is an authority on international business and public policy for industrial development as well as a Stanford University computer science professor. Mr. Step spent 36 years at Eli Lilly, including time as a member of the board of directors and executive committee.

New structure, name at Molecular Oncology

Molecular Oncology Inc. of Gaithersburg has changed its corporate structure to differentiate its cancer therapeutics business from its reference laboratory. The therapeutics company has been renamed ONCOLOGIX Inc. Its subsidiary, Molecular Oncology, will continue as a cancer reference laboratory.

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