Genzyme Corp.'s Tissue Repair Division followed up Wednesday'spositive news on its Carticel product with the formation Thursday ofa joint venture in the area of porcine transplantation with Diacrin Inc.

Both pieces of news pushed Genzyme Tissue Repair's stock(NASDAQ:GENZL), which gained $2.13 Wednesday and $1.56Thursday, to close at $11.19, a two-day gain of 49 percent. The jointventure also was seen as a good move for Diacrin(NASDAQ:DCRN), which gained 88 cents Thursday to close at$9.38 after reaching a high of $10.50.

Diacrin, of Charlestown, Mass., and Genzyme Tissue Repair, ofCambridge, Mass., formed a 50-50 joint venture for development andcommercialization of Diacrin's NeuroCell technology fortransplanting cells from pigs into patients with advanced Parkinson'sand Huntington's disease. The venture covers only those twoproducts, NeuroCell-PD and NeuroCell-HD, both of which are inPhase I trials.

Genzyme will provide $40 million of the next $50 million indevelopment costs for the products, which is the amount estimated toget them to commercialization, said Diacrin President and CEOThomas Fraser, who added that figure is subject to change.

"We were looking to leverage our early stage product developmentexpertise with an organization that has experience in some of the laterstages of product development," Fraser said.

The joint venture will manufacture product and Genzyme will sell it,while getting reimbursed for those costs. Profits then will be sharedequally.

Both Phase I trials of NeuroCell products will involve 12 patients,half of whom will get standard cyclosporin immunosuppressanttreatment with the porcine cells. The other patients will be treatedwith the porcine cells and the company's proprietaryimmunomodulation technology, which is designed to preventrejection of the transplanted cells, making chronicimmunosuppression unnecessary. The technology entails the selectivetreatment of major histocompatibility class I antigens on cellpopulations before transplantation.

Parkinson's patients experience a number of motor symptoms such astremors and speech difficulty. L-dopa therapy initially is effective butloses efficacy in six to 12 years, Diacrin said. NeuroCell-PD wouldbe targeted to those late-stage patients.

Eleven of 12 patients have been transplanted in the Parkinson'sindication with the final transplant scheduled next month. "So far itlooks very promising," Fraser said. "There seems to be consistentimprovement across patients" and no difference between the twogroups.

The company said results seen to date are similar to those seen inParkinson's patients treated with human fetal cells, some of whomshowed improvement in symptoms and restored efficacy of L-dopa.Treatment with human fetal cells, however, is not practical on anumber of levels.

Huntington's disease is an always-fatal genetic disease characterizedby uncontrolled movements, gait and postural defects, and dementia.Two patients have been treated with NeuroCell-HD in the Phase Itrial.

Fraser said the plan is to have all the Huntington's disease patientstreated by the end of March 1997.

Genzyme's Carticel Improves Symptoms At 6 Months

The first six-month follow-up data from Genzyme's Carticel on 53patients showed statistically significant improvement in all fourmeasures: clinical evaluation of knee condition, patients evaluation,reports from examinations, and patient reports of symptoms.

Genzyme in March 1995 began offering the Carticel service, whichentails a process to grow a patient's own cartilage cells forimplantation back into an area of the femur to correct certain types ofknee cartilage damage. Genzyme established a registry, updatedevery six months, to track patient progress.

As of June 30, 47 surgeons in the U.S. and four in Europe had sentdata to the registry. Clinician and patient scores on a 10-point scaleincreased from an average score of 3.1 before treatment to 5.9 sixmonths after treatment. More than 80 percent of evaluations bysurgeons and patients reported improvement in knee function andsymptoms in those treated on the thigh-bone part of the knee,representing the vast majority of procedures. n

-- Jim Shrine

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