Steritech Inc. and the biotechnology group of Baxter HealthcareCorp. (through its Fenwal division) have signed an agreementto develop, manufacture, market and distribute systems fordecontaminating human blood products.

The multiyear agreement, announced today, pairs Steritech'sexpertise in photochemical decontamination methods withBaxter's long-term efforts to develop a reliable means toinactivate viral and other pathogens that can contaminateblood.

The companies will together develop a system thatincorporates Steritech's psoralen compounds. Baxter ofDeerfield, Ill., will manufacture, market and distribute thesystem. Although neither company would disclose theparticulars of the agreement, Baxter is paying privately heldSteritech an up-front fee, licensing fees, research anddevelopment payments and milestone payments, according toStephen Isaacs, president and chief executive officer ofSteritech. He added that the companies will share the revenuefrom product sales.

The system, which will be based on the use of syntheticpsoralen compounds, will consist of disposable units as well ashardware, explained Baxter's John Chapman, the manager forthis program. The system is meant to be used by blood banksto decontaminate donated blood, in particular the concentratedplatelets, shortly after it is collected, he explained.

The concentrated platelets are then mixed with a psoralencompound, which doesn't wreak its havoc until it is illuminatedwith ultraviolet light. At that point, the photoreactivecompound undergoes a specific and irreversible chemicalreaction with DNA and RNA, inactivating the nucleic acids sothey can no longer replicate.

Researchers at Steritech have not only demonstrated the abilityof psoralens to inactivate a broad spectrum of pathogens buthave also shown that treated platelets maintain theirfunctionality after the treatment, Chapman explained.

The concentrated platelets can then be stored for up to fivedays before they are used for transfusions to treatthrombocytopenia.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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