STRASBOURG, France _ Some 240 registrants from all 12 EuropeanUnion nations, plus the U.S., Canada, and Japan, converged Tuesdayon this French Rhineland city for the first J.-P. Lecocq Conference onGene Therapy. Co-sponsored by Transgne S.A. here and INSERM,France's National Research Institute for Science and Medicine, theevent commemorates the death in a plane crash in 1992 of Transgne'sfirst director general, Jean-Pierre Lecocq. He was an internationallyacclaimed molecular biologist.Four half-day sessions Wednesday and Thursday will include 27papers updating viral and non-viral vectors, preclinical and clinicalstudies and stem cells. These sessions will be chaired, respectively, byfour leading U.S. researchers, namely, Dusty Miller, of the FredHutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; Inder Verma, of theSalk Institute in La Jolla, Calif.; Robert Gallo of the National InstitutesOf Health; and Richard Mulligan, of the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology. Scientists from Canada, France, Austria, Switzerland, theU.K., The Netherlands and Italy, will present their current researchresults."The objective of this first J.-P. Lecocq gene therapy conference,"Transgne's director-general, Bernard Gilly, told BioWorld onTuesday evening, "is to constitute, and contribute to, an internationalEuropean forum, where scientific information could circulate amongdifferent laboratories, whether public or private companies, comingfrom all around the world to this European-based conference."Gilly added, "This opportunity for us [at Transgne] is certain toincrease dramatically the number of contracts between us and academicinstitutions, and serve other companies who come to the conference inexactly the same way."About 70 percent of Transgne's present activity is dedicated to genetherapy, the firm's CEO said, in these five areas: cystic fibrosis,multiple sclerosis, thalassemia, AIDS and cancer. He confided that thecompany's first clinical trial, for lung cancer gene therapy, will begin"by the end of the month" at the Gustave-Roussy Institute in Paris. Itwill enroll 10 patients for a Phase I study (with therapeutic indicationsas a hopeful by-product) employing initially an interleukin-2 gene in adefective adenovirus vector.The conference opened Tuesday evening with a reception sponsored bythe local administrative district. Gilly and the department's vice-president, Andr Kleinmosser, welcomed the conferees.Transgne has numerous U.S. contacts, Gilly said, most of them at ascientific level. One such is with Ohio State University, which holdsthe basic patent on retrotransposon vectors. In addition, the company isin collaborative discussions with several American companies."Transgne's goal," Gilly said, to which this conference willcontribute, "is to go as quickly as we can to the patients with suitabletherapies."What Transgne is all about, and this is our core business, is todevelop vectors for gene transfer. The company now numbers 170employees, 70 of which are PhDs. The firm is currently finishing itsfacility for making clinical-grade products for future trials." n
-- David N. Leff Science Editor
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