StressGen Biotechnologies, a privately held biotechnologycompany in Canada, has obtained exclusive worldwide rights tothe therapeutic applications of stress proteins from theMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and theWhitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (WIBR).
Stress proteins are found in all cells and are expressed whenthe cell is stressed with heat or other trauma. A companyrepresentative explained that the stress proteins are highlyimmunogenic and elicit a super antigenic response, stimulatingthe production of antibodies.
They also act as "molecular chaperones," maintaining thetertiary structure of other cell proteins when the proteins areendangered.
StressGen of Victoria, British Columbia, now has exclusiverights to several U.S. and international patent applications filedjointly by MIT, WIBR and the Medical Research Council of GreatBritain. These patents enable StressGen to develop andcommercialize pharmaceutical products based on stressproteins.
Prior to this agreement, the financial terms of which were notdisclosed, StressGen was pursuing diagnostic andenvironmental health applications of the proteins. For example,the company was studying the use of transgenic strains of anematode to detect heavy metal contaminants and herbicides.It is no longer pursuing such applications.
With the technology from MIT and WIBR, StressGen isdeveloping both prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines. Its firstproduct will be a prophylactic genetically engineered TBvaccine, Unigen TB. Genes for TB stress proteins will be isolatedand characterized and then cloned to develop a subunit vaccineof the protein.
BCG is currently the only TB vaccine on the market. StressGennoted that this vaccine has produced variable levels ofprotective immunity in different populations. The companyexpects its vaccine will be more effective since it is based onthe microbacterium TB pathogen and utilizes the mostimmunogenic piece of a specific stress protein.
StressGen has isolated the stress protein for TB, but does notyet have a candidate vaccine. The company expects to beginclinical testing of a product in about a year. It is also pursuingdevelopment of subunit vaccines against other infectiousdiseases and therapeutic cancer vaccines called oncocines. Thefirst oncocine will be against breast cancer as post-surgicaltherapy to boost the immune system against remaining cancercells.
StressGen was founded in 1990 to develop stress protein-basedvaccines, vaccine adjuvants and carriers and stress-responsereagents. The company has filed for an initial public offering onthe Vancouver Stock Exchange and plans to issue a $2.5 millionoffering in Canada in the next month or so. It currentlymarkets monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, DNA probes,purified stress proteins and gene expression vectors.
-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor
(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.