Triplex Pharmaceuticals Corp. has received three separatePhase I small business innovation research (SBIR) grants fromthe National Institutes of Health (NIH), the company announcedtoday. The grants, worth $50,000 each, will support Triplex'sefforts to develop therapeutic applications of its triple helixtechnology.

Two of the grants will support research projects to developtriplex compounds as therapies for human cytomegalovirus(CMV) infections and breast cancer. The third will support thedevelopment of "second-generation" Triplex oligonucleotideswith enhanced cellular delivery properties, according to JamesChubb, president and chief executive officer of the privatelyheld company, which is located in The Woodlands, Texas.

The Triplex compounds are sequence-specific oligonucleotidesdesigned to bind to duplex DNA of disease-causing genes.Unlike antisense compounds, which block the translation ofRNA into protein, triplex compounds shut down proteinsynthesis earlier by binding to duplex DNA.

Scientists at the company have already identified a series ofTriplex nucleotides that are active against CMV in cell culturesystems, for instance. They will use the SBIR grant money toevaluate the mechanism of action of these particularcompounds, as well as to ascertain their safety and efficacyprofiles.

Triplex is already collaborating with Eva Gonczol at the WistarInstitute in Philadelphia to evaluate and characterize theactivity of Triplex compounds against CMV.

The second SBIR grant will support the researchers' efforts atevaluating the effectiveness of Triplex compounds inrepressing the transcription of the progesterone receptor. Thismay prove an effective means of treating some forms of breastcancer, since progesterone is one of the steroid hormonesinvolved in breast tissue growth and development.

The third grant will support research on the attachment oflipophilic groups to Triplex oligonucleotides--a method thatcould aid the cellular uptake and distribution of the moieties.

Triplex is also investigating whether its unique compounds cantreat a certain type of brain tumor. In a collaboration withAlfred Yung of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson CancerCenter in Houston, the investigators are exploring whetherTriplex compounds that target the epidermal growth factorreceptor (EGFR) can inhibit the growth of brain tumorsassociated with overexpression of that receptor. Overexpressionof EGFR has already been implicated in hyperproliferativediseases.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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