Escagenetics Corp. has received a notice of allowance for itssecond patent covering a method of Taxane production. The U.S.patent, "Synthesis of Taxanes in Culture," covers the productionof taxanes through plant cell tissue culture. An Escageneticspatent allowed last October covered the production of taxanesdirectly from seedlings.

Taxanes, or taxoids, are the chemically related compounds ofwhich taxol is a member. They are derived from the Taxusgenus of yew tree and are thought to have anti-tumorpotential. Escagenetics of San Carlos Calif., stated that its patentcovers the production of taxanes from any of the Taxus genus.In contrast, the company continued, the U.S. Department ofAgriculture's 1991 taxol patent (which was licensed to PhytonCatalytic Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb's partner in thedevelopment of the FDA-approved oncology drug Taxol) coversonly the production of taxol or taxol-like compounds from T.brevifolia, the Pacific yew tree.

Bristol-Myers also has licensed a technology for an alternativeproduction of taxol from Florida State University, Tallahassee.That technology derives taxol from the English yew tree, whichis more abundant than the Pacific yew, without destroying thetree.

Escagenetics' corporate counsel, Ahmad Hakim-Elahi, toldBioWorld that the company's technology can be used to derivetaxanes from a wide variety of sources, including the Pacific,English, and Himalayan yew trees.

Escagenetics (ASE:ESN) develops and produces plant-derivedproducts. Phytopharmaceuticals Inc., the company's plant-based drug discovery and development subsidiary, formed inApril 1992, will attempt to exploit some of the taxol producedby Escagenetics. Phytopharmaceuticals is developing a newtaxol derivative in collaboration with Enzon Inc. The derivative,intended to have longer duration of action and fewer allergicside effects than Taxol, is obtained by attaching polyethyleneglycol (PEG) to the taxol molecule.

Escagenetics' stock closed at $5.38 on Friday, down 13 cents.

-- Karl A. Thiel Associate Editor

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