Viagene Inc. and Chiron Corp. announced Thursday the start of a genetherapy clinical study, the first since their November 1993collaboration, in patients with advanced metastatic melanoma.The study will involve 10 patients and the tandem use of Aldesleukin,Chiron's recombinant interleukin-2 (rIL-2), and Viagene's gammainterferon gene therapy product.Patients will be treated first with autologous, irradiated tumor cells thathave been modified using a gamma interferon gene therapy vector,which is expected to increase visibility of the tumor cells to theimmune system. Patients then will be treated with rIL-2, a stimulator ofimmune system T cells.The products involved in the study are not cross-licensed under thecollaboration, and each company retains full rights to its product.Robert Abbott, president and CEO of San Diego-based Viagene, toldBioWorld the early effort was "simply an opportunity for both partiesbecause it represented an intersection of two pre-existing productthrusts. It not the underlying product development area of thecollaboration."Under terms of the November agreement, Viagene will provide its viralvector technology, and Chiron, of Emeryville, Calif., will providerights to certain genes. Viagene gets exclusive worldwide rights tomanufacture and supply, and Chiron worldwide rights to market allproducts developed under the agreement.Viagene is responsible for funding the first $12 million spent in thecollaboration, Chiron the next $12 million and the companies will splitany expenses over $24 million. In connection with the effort, Chironbought 1.6 million Viagene shares for $17.6 million, and warrants that,if exercised would provide another $30 million to Viagene. _ JimShrine
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