Inc. announced Wednesday that it has received exclusivelicenses to two patents on antisense oligonucleotides thatprovide broad coverage for a method of purifying thecompounds as well as a way to create unique modifications inoligonucleotide structure.

The Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology holds therights to both patents, one of which issued in Europe and theother in the U.S. The Worcester Foundation's president andscientific director, Thoru Pederson, is an inventor on the U.S.patent, while Hybridon's chief scientific officer, Sudhir Agrawal,is a co-inventor on both patents.

Hybridon is developing antisense oligonucleotide constructs tobe used as drugs. By targeting and binding to specific geneticsequences, these constructs could modulate or preventexpression of a particular gene and thus the production ofdisease-associated proteins.

The process covered by the European patent provides a meansto purify large quantities of oligonucleotides in fewer stepsthan currently required, something that should prove to becost-effective, especially for the quantities that could benecessary for therapeutic application. The process also can beused to purify all types of oligonucleotide constructs, whetherthey are DNA, RNA or analog, by the same method rather thanby separate syntheses.

The U.S. patent that Hybridon of Worcester, Mass., has licensedrelates to a new type of structurally modified oligonucleotideby which researchers can design an oligo specifically to addressa particular target sequence. The oligo is divided into severalregions of activity. One of these activates the enzyme thatdegrades target sequences, another increases the compound'sstability inside the cell.

"This oligonucleotide design provides greater flexibility tomodulate the drug's delivery into the cell, control the drug'sresistance to breakdown by enzymes within the cell, andmanipulate the drug's pharmacokinetic properties, all of whichare very important parameters for antisense activity," saidAgrawal.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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