BioHybrid Technologies Inc. and Synergy Research Corp. wereawarded a $4.25 million matching grant from the U.S.Department of Commerce to complete development ofBioHybrid's "microreactor" technology.

Microreactors are tiny spheres containing living cells thatproduce an active pharmacologic agent. BioHybrid's firstapplication of the technology is for the treatment of diabetes;the microreactors will deliver animal pancreatic islet cells thatproduce insulin.

BioHybrid's president, William Chick, told BioWorld that themicroreactors protect cells from being rejected, therebyeliminating the need for life-long immunosuppressive drug use.They also permit the use of animal cell sources. Chick addedthat another advantage of the technology, is that themicroreactors can be injected with a needle and syringe.

The microreactors' pores permit nutrients and oxygen from thebody to enter them and allow cell products to exit. Chick saidthe technology is applicable to a wide range of therapeuticapplications. Other disease targets include hemophilia,Huntington's chorea, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease,cancer and AIDS.

BioHybrid of Shrewsbury, Mass., expects its insulin-producingmicroreactor to enter clinical trials within the next two to threeyears.

The pancreatic islet cells will be derived primarily from pigs.The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 90 millionpigs are slaughtered annually in the U.S. Chick said 2.5 millionAmericans take insulin every day, but only 2,000 to 3,000pancreatic glands are available for transplantation.

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standardsand Technology is providing the grant through its AdvancedTechnology Program. Synergy Research of Lebanon, N.H., willassist with bioprocess engineering, while BioHybrid willproduce the islets from animals and purify them. The twocompanies have been collaborating for the past two years ontechnology related to isolating islets and scaling up production.

BioHybrid, a subsidiary of W.R. Grace & Co., was founded in1985 by Chick and John Hayes. The company has developeddifferent versions of an artificial pancreas; the microreactortechnology evolved from this research. Other companiesdeveloping implants for diabetics include CytoTherapeutics Inc.and Neocrin Co.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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