By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Select Therapeutics Inc., aiming to pair its dendritic cell activation technology with Cytomatrix Inc.'s devices that enable the making and expansion of stem cells, signed a letter of intent that allows Select to take over Cytomatrix in a tax-free stock swap.

Further terms were not disclosed.

"For now, that's really all the information that's being made public," said Allan Green, director of Cambridge, Mass.-based Select and chairman of the scientific board.

The combined cell-therapy company, to be based in Boston, near Woburn, Mass., where privately held Cytomatrix now has its headquarters, will focus first on kits for adoptive immunotherapy for certain tumors and infectious diseases, as well as cancer vaccines, Green said.

"We'll make more decisions over the next few months on the need for more housing and lab space," he added.

The strategy of the new company is to rebuild, in effect, patients' immune systems. Acquiring Cytomatrix's cell-culture components will "be useful, for instance, in providing an environment for creating T-cell-based therapies," when used in combination with Select's dendritic technology, Green said.

He acknowledged the similarity of the new firm's efforts with those of Aastrom Biosciences Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., which recently raised $6 million to fund clinical programs for the AastromReplicell Cell Production System, designed to operate a family of patient-specific cell therapy kits to produce cells for various therapies.

Green, however, declined to comment further on Aastrom or other potential competitors.

Also, as part of its sharper focus on cell therapy, Select is selling its Sierra Diagnostics in vitro products division for an undisclosed sum to members of management, who will operate the firm independently.

"Everybody wants to do it as rapidly as possible," Green said, adding he expects the transaction to be completed within the current quarter. "We're talking weeks, perhaps a couple of months," he said.

Select's stock (OTC Bulletin Board: SLPU) closed Wednesday at $3.437, up 14.6 percent. n

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