Genesis Technology Group Inc. (GTG) and SRI Internationalannounced Monday that they have formed a joint venture,ImmunoVite Inc., to develop pediatric vaccine adjuvantsderived from glucans, polymers composed of glucose.

ImmunoVite's corporate offices will remain in Cambridge,Mass. (the site of technology-transfer company GTG), while theresearch and development will take place at the Menlo Park,Calif., facilities of SRI, a non-profit research organization.

"ImmunoVite will combine the technological expertise andproprietary rights of each company in the area ofcarbohydrates, specifically glucans," said Christopher Messina,chairman of the board of the new company.

Glucans act as immunomodulators; they stimulate the immunesystem by targeting a receptor on macrophages, explained DanMorris, SRI's director of technology commercialization andventures.

ImmunoVite's glucans, derived from botanical sources, havebeen shown in preliminary animal studies to have a lowtoxicity as well. This is an especially important considerationfor an adjuvant that will be used for childhood vaccines.

The particular glucans that GTG brings to the venture arebranched molecules derived from mushrooms, said Morris. GTGacquired the rights to patents (pending) on these compoundsfrom laboratories in Central and Eastern Europe, added RichardMacIntosh, GTG's vice president of corporate development.

GTG's founder, Christopher Messina, was "able to negotiaterights to the technology developed at several research centersin the Slovak and Czech republics in 1991," MacIntosh toldBioWorld. "We are proceeding through the European patentprocess, and specific country filings will be made next year," headded.

SRI also has applied for patent protection of its glucans, whichare linear molecules derived from the photosynthetic algaEuglena, Morris said. One of SRI's patents covers a process forproducing a high yield of material from an algal fermentation;another covers a process for separating and purifying thematerial, Morris told BioWorld.

As a result, ImmunoVite has at its disposal an arsenal ofglucans with unique structures as well as unique physical andchemical properties. "Glucans are fairly difficult to come by.There's no economical way to synthesize them (because of theparticular chemical linkages involved), and it's hard to findthem in quantity from natural sources," Morris explained.

The only companies that seem to be developing glucans at themoment, he added, are the Japanese firm Ajinomoto, which ismarketing a glucan as a cancer therapeutic, and Alpha-BetaTechnology Inc. of Worcester, Mass.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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