Cystar Inc., a Massachusetts start-up company, hasbrought together science from Canada, France and theU.S. to create an international biotechnology firm stakingits success on humanized mouse monoclonal antibodiestargeting immune system diseases and prevention oforgan transplant rejection.

Woburn, Mass.-based Cystar's scientific mix of T cellexpertise, insect cell expression and technology forhumanizing murine antibodies was concocted by CEOStan Yakatan, who has guided the creation of otherbiotechnology companies, such as Unisyn Technologies,of Hopkinton, Mass.

"We took three early stage companies that all had uphillroads and put them together to form a powerfulcompany," Yakatan said, adding that the feat wasaccomplished with $3 million from a venture capitalgroup led by Medical Science Partners, of Boston, andinstitutional investors in France and Norway.

With all the science under an international umbrellaextending from Woburn to St. Christol lez Ales, France,to Quebec, Yakatan said Cystar is in the middle ofanother round of financing to raise $6 million to $8million.

The two companies Yakatan brought together withCystar, which was founded in 1994, were BostonBiomedical Sciences, of Boston, and ProteinePerformance SA, of St. Christol Lez Ales.

From Boston Biomedical, Cystar got T cell suppressionand activation expertise along with a series ofmonoclonal antibodies. And from Proteine Performance,Cystar acquired a mouse antibody production systemusing a baculovirus expression vector in insect cells and atechnology for fully humanizing the murine antibodies.

Proteine Performance, Yakatan said, was really twocompanies: a contract business for antibody expression aswell as a drug research and development firm. Toconcentrate on drug discovery and commercialization,Cystar kept the research and development activities intactin France and licensed the antibody production work toQuantum Biotechnologies, of Montreal, in exchange for aroyalty stream.

In addition, Ronald Guttmann, director of McGillUniversity's Center for Clinical Immunobiology andTransplantation in Montreal, is helping Cystar establish aCanadian subsidiary in that city to handle preclinical drugstudies. And Yakatan said Cystar eventually may relocateits Woburn corporate offices to Montreal.

Instead of having a one-year-old company that is justgetting off the ground, Yakatan equated Cystar with afour-year-old firm with lead drug candidates alreadyidentified.

The company, he said, has three fully humanizedmonoclonal antibodies nearly ready for testing asinhibitors of T cell modulators _ CD2, CD58, and CD29_ all of which may play a role in organ transplantrejection and immune system diseases, such asrheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Yakatan said Cystar also intends to license antibodiesfrom other companies for development with itsexpression and humanization technologies.

All the ingredients for Yakatan's Cystar mix _ venturecapitalists and scientists _ were brought together in Parislast January for lengthy negotiations, he said.

When the parties emerged, Yakatan observed, they hadestablished a development-stage company, which in sixmonths will have one or two products in animal trials andin a year will be looking for a corporate partner to go intoclinical trials. n

-- Charles Craig

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