Top management from private biotechnology companies are presenting their companies to about 500 venture capitalists and investors at the Mid-Atlantic Venture Fair 1991 in Baltimore. Highlights from Wednesday's presentations and interviews with company executives follow.

Cellco Inc.

The Kensington, Md., company has developed a therapeutic cell culture system using proprietary artificial capillary technology.

The company's scientific founders, Richard Knazek and William Kidwell, developed the technology at the National Institutes of Health. The system is currently being used in clinical trials of tumor infiltrating lymphocyte therapy in three U.S. centers, and plans for its use in three other centers are being finalized, said R. William Lynn, president and chief executive.

Cellco plans to register its facilities with the Food and Drug Administration in the second quarter of next year, Lynn said, and to introduce its first commercial application before the end of 1992.

"The first indication will probably be a CD8 positive lymphocyte therapy for AIDS," according to Lynn. He said the potential market includes every patient who has been identified as HIV positive and has not developed AIDS symptoms. "Potentially, all of these people should have their lymphocytes removed, expanded and stored prior to having symptoms," he said.

Cellco received initial financing in 1988 from Nichimen, a Japanese trading company. In 1990, New Enterprise Associates and Catalyst invested $1 million of equity capital in the company. They have committed to a further $1 million of follow-on financing. Cellco is seeking an additional $1 million to fund the company through 1992.

Immunicon Corp.

Immunicon's core technology is based on tiny magnetic particles that can be coated with biological or chemical materials. The "super paramagnetic" particles have magnetic properties when they are in a magnetic field.

Potential medical applications include magnetic contrast agents, drug delivery, bone marrow therapy, blood purification and cell factor purification, the Huntingdon Valley, Pa., company said.

"The technology enables us to coat the magnetic particles with a protein which can find a monoclonal antibody, or add ligands, and use them to pull DNA out of solutions," said Henry Clemente, company president. He said that the technique can be used in autologous and homologous cell transfers.

Immunicon holds three U.S. patents and expects to receive two more in 1992, Clemente told BioWorld.

Immunicon estimated the market size for magnetic separation in the medical, research, diagnostics, forensics, food and manufacturing industries at $700 million. The company, which Clemente said is currently profitable, estimated 1991 revenues at $2 million.

Financing has come from Johnson Associates and private funds. Immunicon is seeking corporate partners and investors to develop specific aspects of its technology.

Molecular Oncology Inc.

The Gaithersburg, Md., company develops cancer diagnostics and treatments based on the unique features of the molecular biology of cancer cells.

MOI has two therapeutics. One is an inhibitor to collagenase Type IV, which is involved in tumor metastasis. The other is a monoclonal antibody directed against the cell surface protein erbB-2, which is abundant on 20 percent to 30 percent of human breast, ovarian and gastric cancers and certain lung cancers, according to the company. Both are in preclinical trials and will enter the clinic in 1992, said William Bundy, president and chief executive officer.

MOI expects to introduce a diagnostic based on collagenase Type IV in 1992.

The company is also developing screening and drug-design programs based on the tumor suppressor gene nm23 in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute.

MOI also operates an oncology reference laboratory.

MOI has raised $9 million in seed money and additional financing from HealthCare Ventures Fund I and II and Everest Trust. It is seeking $15 million to fund further research and development and clinical trials.

Bundy said the company hopes to go public in 1993.

Triplex Pharmaceutical Corp.

The Woodland, Texas, company is developing products based on triple helix-forming oligonucleotide compounds that bind to DNA and inhibit protein production at the level of DNA transcription.

Triplex is initially focusing on HIV and herpes simplex types I and II viruses. The AIDS research is more advanced, James Chubb, company president, told BioWorld. The company has ongoing in vitro studies of a potential AIDS treatment and is beginning to evaluate the compound in animal models, he said.

Triplex, founded in 1989, has raised $19 million to date. Initial funding of $4 million was provided by Hillman Medical Ventures and Brantley Venture Partners. A second round of financing from several venture funds, completed in July, raised $15 million. Triplex is looking for corporate partners for R&D and marketing, according to Chubb.

The two-day conference is sponsored by the Venture Capital Group of Greater Baltimore; Delaware Valley Venture Group; Alex. Brown & Sons, Coopers & Lybrand; Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman; and the Maryland Department of Economic & Employment Development.

-- Steve Usdin BioWorld Washington Bureau

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.