By Mary Welch
To boost Phase III trials of the first transgenically produced human recombinant therapeutic product and to advance other products, Genzyme Transgenics Corp. increased its credit line by $15 million to a total of $24.6 million from Fleet Bank of Boston.
The unsecured loan is guaranteed by Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., which owns about 41 percent of GenzymeTransgenics.
"We consider that very significant," said Pat Dimond, spokeswoman for Genzyme Transgenics, of Framingham, Mass. "We are often asked, 'What is Genzyme General's commitment to Genzyme Transgenics?' and we think this is evidence of their support."
The credit facility will include a $17.5 million operating line of credit and a $7.1 million capital line of credit that will be used to refinance the company's existing $2.1 million farm financing, and will provide $5 million in new funding for expansion of production facilities, including the goat farm and purification plant. In addition, Genzyme Transgenics received a commitment for a $5 million lease line of credit with Transamerica Technology Finance, a division of San Francisco-based Transamerica Business Credit.
Earlier this month, Genzyme Transgenics inked a deal with Centocor Inc., of Malvern, Pa., to develop and produce monoclonal antibodies in the milk of transgenic goats. The collaboration was the 13th development deal for transgenically produced therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, and the second this quarter. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 10, 1998, p. 1.)
Genzyme Transgenics has deals with Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Tarrytown, N.Y., to make an HIV drug in goats' milk; Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, for treatments of psoriasis, organ transplant rejection and autoimmune disorders; B. Braun Melsungen AG, of Melsungen, Germany, for recombinant human protein drugs; and Advanced Cell Technologies Inc., of Worcester, Mass., for cloning cows capable of producing human serum albumin in their milk.
In Phase III trials is the company's recombinant human antithrombin III (rhATIII), a transgenically produced anti-clotting drug. The trials are currently enrolling patients and should wrap up by the fourth quarter of next year, with an anticipated new drug application filing in early 2000. Genzyme Transgenics is conducting the trials with its joint venture partner, Genzyme Corp.
The trials are evaluating the safety and efficacy of rhATIII versus a placebo in restoring heparin sensitivity in heparin-resistant patients who are having heart surgery and will be put on a cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) heart-lung machine. Patients undergoing such surgery require anticoagulation with heparin to prevent the clotting that occurs when blood comes into contract with the foreign surface of the CPB circuit. Heparin is an anti-clotting substance that works in conjunction with rhATIII, a naturally occurring blood protein. (See BioWorld Today, May 14, 1998 p. 1.)
Genzyme Transgenics reported third-quarter 1998 revenues of $16.5 million, an increase of 12 percent over the same period last year. However, the net loss for the quarter was $4.6 million (or $0.25 per share), compared to $2.6 million ($0.15 per share) for the same period last year. The company had about $10.2 million in cash for the quarter, since reduced to about $8.4 million.
Genzyme Transgenics' stock (NASDAQ:GZTC) closed Tuesday at $4.937, down $0.062. *