Exogene has licensed from Stanford University technology tosynthesize new antibiotics using genetic engineering, theMonrovia, Calif., firm announced.

Exogene chairman and chief executive officer Bob Leachexplained that with this technology "one can insert variousenzymes that make antibiotics into a host" and these enzymes"can synthesize various core structures." He said this process"uses nature's enzymes to synthesize compounds in the cell,"whereas traditional antibiotics have been derived from soilsamples.

Currently, Exogene said, 80 percent of all antibiotics arederived from four core structures: penicillins, cephalosporins,tetracyclines and erythromycins. To date, scientists at Exogenehave created seven novel core structures using the company'sproprietary metabolic engineering and screening methods. Thistechnology is based on inserting hemoglobin from theVitreoscilla microbe into other microbes to enhance theiroxygen-using capabilities and therefore their productivity.

Leach said the two approaches together would enable Exogeneto manipulate cells to both produce new compounds and toproduce them cheaply.

Under the agreement, Exogene will have exclusive worldwidemanufacturing and marketing rights to therapeutics and otherproducts developed with Stanford's technology. In return,Exogene will provide milestone payments and royalties to theUniversity. The technology was developed in the laboratories ofChaitan Khosla of Stanford and David Hopwood of the JohnInnes Institute in the U.K.. Both scientists are members ofExogene's scientific advisory board.-- Brenda Sandburg

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