MicroProbe Corp. announced Tuesday that it is acquiringRibonetics GmbH/Ltd., a German start-up biotechnologycompany focused on development of oligonucleotides.

MicroProbe (NASDAQ:MPRO) will pay $1.5 million in cash and515,837 shares of its common stock to acquire all of Ribonetics'stock and certain technology of Animal BiotechnologyCambridge Ltd., a shareholder of Ribonetics located inCambridge, England. (MicroProbe's stock closed at $5 a share onTuesday, up 25 cents.) The technology involves biological testsystems that employ human cell lines.

Ribonetics of Gottingen, Germany, is developingoligonucleotides called Rilons that are designed to act likeenzymes to destroy specific messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules,thereby stopping the synthesis of proteins that cause humandiseases.

MicroProbe said this technology would complement its ownAnti-Gene technology for development of therapeutics thatbind to and inactivate the DNA of disease-associated genes, aswell as its protein-blocker technology for inhibition of proteinscentral to the growth and reproduction of cells and viruses.

Ribonetics' technology and MicroProbe's Anti-Gene technologyare in the cell-culture phase. MicroProbe's protein blockers arein animal studies.

Harvey Hoyt, MicroProbe's chief executive officer, said theacquisition of Ribonetics "provides MicroProbe with a largertechnology base to attract major corporate partners." He toldBioWorld that MicroProbe has been in discussions with severalU.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers and hopes to formalize apartnership in 1994.

Hoyt said Ribonetics' newly completed European facilitiesshould ultimately enable MicroProbe to manufacture sufficientquantities of oligonucleotides for animal and clinical testing.

To allow completion of the acquisition within the time limitsimposed by the sellers and to finalize its due diligence,MicroProbe of Bothell, Wash., said it has arranged for a 90-dayperiod, ending March 2, 1994, during which it can sellRibonetics to David Blech "on the same financial terms as thisacquisition." Blech was one of the co-underwriters forMicroProbe's initial public offering, which raised $16.5 millionin September.

Ribonetics was founded in November 1992 by Herbert Stadler,founding director of Biometra GmbH and former head ofneurochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for BiophysicalChemistry, and Gunter Schmidt, previously associate director ofbiochemistry and physiology at Merck Sharpe & Dohme.MicroProbe said that after the acquisition it anticipates thatStadler and Schmidt will be nominated to MicroProbe's boardof directors.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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