W.R. Grace & Co. sold the transgenic plant division of its subsidiary,Agracetus Inc., to Monsanto Co. for $150 million in cash, but Gracesaid it will keep the human gene therapy portion of Agracetus'business.

Grace spokesman, Chuck Suits, said the gene therapy program willbe conducted under a new company, called Auragen PharmaceuticalsInc., which will remain at Agracetus' current location in Middleton,Wis. Auragen expects to file an investigational new drug applicationwith the FDA by mid-1996 to begin clinical trials in gene therapy.

Agracetus' genetic engineering has produced numerous transgenicplants, including cotton, soybeans, peanuts, green beans andcranberries.

Monsanto, of St. Louis, first licensed Agracetus' technology forgenetically altering plants in 1991. With the $150 million acquisition,Monsanto boosts its expertise in agricultural biotechnology. Plans for100 Agracetus employees and its headquarters were not disclosed.

The sale of its transgenic plant division to Monsanto is the secondmove in a month by Grace to streamline expenses. In March, Grace,of Boca Raton, Fla., sold its biopesticide business to Thermal EcotekInc., of Waltham, Mass. Thermal Ecotek, a subsidiary of ThermalElectric Corp., also of Waltham, paid $7 million in cash and agreedto make royalty payments to Grace for the next four years on productsales in excess of $14 million. n

-- Charles Craig

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