Diagnostic Hybrids Inc. (DHI) and BioWhittaker Inc.formed an alliance that covers distribution of certain DHIcell culture products and rights to other products underdevelopment.

The deal centers around DHI's genetically engineeredreporter cell system called the Enzyme Linked VirusInducible System, or ELVIS. BioWhittaker immediatelywill begin distributing the ELVIS herpes simplex virus(HSV) test, which DHI had approved last May.

BioWhittaker, of Walkersville, Md., paid Athens, Ohio-based DHI $1.125 million as a non-refundable advanceagainst royalties from sales of the ELVIS HSV Test Kit.The deal also gives BioWhittaker rights of first refusal tocommercialize other ELVIS-related products, each ofwhich would result in research and developmentpayments to DHI.

"That's a significant amount of money to be laid out,"said David Scholl, DHI's vice president, research. "Thatsuggests the leader in our industry believes it's a goodproduct."

Scholl said the HSV kit was selling well and replacingsome of the traditional cell lines used for herpes, thuscatching the eye of competitor BioWhittaker. "It's a boldmove for a company like us," he said. "BioWhittaker hasthe largest cell culture share in the world. We were in asituation where we needed the R & D funds and werecognized our sales and marketing limitations. It's a nicefit."

The HSV kit contains genetically engineered mammaliancells incorporating viral and bacterial genes that, together,signal the presence of HSV types 1 or 2 through a colorchange. Confirmed results can be obtained within oneday.

Behind the HSV product DHI is furthest along indevelopment of ELVIS applications for other herpesfamily viruses. The company also is developing productsthat have new applications in the diagnostic setting,including antiviral sensitivity testing, in vitroneutralization tests and applications in toxicologyscreening. n

-- Jim Shrine

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