LONDON ¿ The gene therapy company Oxford Biomedica plc, of Oxford, has formed a joint venture with ViroMed Ltd. (VML), the pioneer of gene therapy in Korea, to exploit Oxford Biomedica¿s LentiVector gene delivery technology in Southeast Asian markets.

The new company, Virotech Ltd., will combine Oxford Biomedica¿s lentiviral vector and enzyme/prodrug technologies with VML¿s vector development technology, and access to clinical trial facilities and business development expertise. It initially will concentrate on gene therapy for cancers, including liver and prostate, that are particularly prevalent in Southeast Asia.

Alan Kingsman, CEO of Oxford Biomedica, said the formation of Virotech would bring in additional resources to progress its products. ¿These could now move into clinical trials much faster than if we continued to develop them on our own,¿ he said.

VML was founded in November 1996 by Sun Young Kim to commercialize gene therapy and diagnostic technology developed at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Seoul National University. The company claims strong links with the Korean and Japanese pharmaceutical industries, and with academic institutions.

Kingsman said, ¿With the quality of the team that Professor Kim has built up at VML, the joint venture gives Oxford Biomedica the equivalent of eight to 10 new team members.¿ ¿ Nuala Moran