GenVec, a gene therapy start-up company, has hired apharmaceutical heavyweight as its new chief executive officer.Thomas D'Alonzo brings with him more than a decade ofexperience at Glaxo Inc., which is the $3.15 billion U.S.subsidiary of Glaxo Holdings plc of the United Kingdom.

D'Alonzo was most recently president of Glaxo of ResearchTriangle Park, N.C., where he oversaw Glaxo's operations,including sales and marketing, manufacturing, qualityassurance, finance and licensing and strategic planning.

GenVec of Rockville, Md., was established in March tocommercialize the in vivo gene therapy technologies pioneeredby National Institutes of Health (NIH) researcher RonaldCrystal. Crystal, who founded the company, is also its chiefscientific adviser.

GenVec also has a strong financial partner in Genentech Inc. Foran investment of $17 million, Genentech (NYSE:GNE) owns 20percent of GenVec and is supporting research on gene therapyproducts for treating cystic fibrosis (CF). Genentech will retainworldwide marketing rights to any of these products.

Crystal's approach to gene therapy involves using adenoviralvectors to deliver genes directly to patients via the lung.Crystal, who was the chief of the pulmonary branch of NIH'sNational Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was one of the firstinvestigators to receive approval last December from the NIH'sRecombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) to begin humangene therapy experiments on patients with CF. NIH approvedthe protocol in April.

Crystal is now the chief of the division of pulmonary andcritical-care medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell MedicalCenter; nevertheless, he is overseeing the NIH-run CF genetherapy trial. The patients are being dosed with the CF gene(the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene)in a modified adenovirus. In fact, the fourth patient was dosedjust last week, according to D'Alonzo. He added that GenVecintends to file investigational new drug (IND) applications for aCF gene therapy trial and for a gene therapy trial for cancer in1994.

"We are focused on the discovery and development ofadenovirus vectors," D'Alonzo explained. These includeproprietary, second-generation gene therapy products. "GenVecis driving toward developing a broadly usable delivery vehiclefor several diseases," he told BioWorld. "We believe the goldstandard is adenovirus."

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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