Gene therapy researcher Richard Mulligan is taking a leave ofabsence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology andthe Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research to work atSomatix for 12-18 months. He will become the company'sexecutive vice president of research, effective in June 1994.

Edward Lanphier, Somatix's executive vice president ofcommercial development, told BioWorld that Mulligan willprimarily focus on enhancing the company's vector and gene-transfer technologies.

Mulligan's patented gene therapy technologies provided thebasis for Somatix's first clinical program, a protocol for treatingadvanced renal cancer.

Approved by the National Institutes of Health's RecombinantDNA Advisory Committee in March, the protocol involvesvaccinating patients with their own tumor cells geneticallymodified to express granulocyte macrophage-colonystimulating factor (GM-CSF). The protocol for the vaccine, calledGVAX, was developed in collaboration with the Johns HopkinsOncology Center and the Whitehead Institute.

Lanphier said Somatix (NASDAQ:SOMA) plans to expand theapplications of the vaccine to treat melanoma, and after that,prostate cancer. The company recently entered a partnershipwith Baxter Healthcare Corp. to develop a gene therapy forhemophilia. Somatix will be able to use Baxter's membranedevice with its vectors for delivery of various proteins to thevascular system.

Mulligan joined the MIT faculty in 1981 and became a tenuredprofessor of molecular biology and member of the WhiteheadInstitute in 1991. He is also a visiting professor of oncology atthe Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has had anongoing relationship with Somatix since 1988 and serves on thecompany's board of directors.

Somatix of Alameda, Calif., said Mulligan's arrival has beencoordinated with the return of Somatix's executive vicepresident of research and development, Anton Berns, to theNetherlands Cancer Institute in July. Berns will remaininvolved in Somatix's upcoming clinical trial of GVAX in Europe.--Brenda Sandburg

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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