Robert Leach, former chief executive officer and president ofGenencor, has taken the helm as chairman and chief executiveofficer at privately held Exogene Corp. He hopes to steer thecompany toward profitability in the manufacturing of bulkantibiotics via proprietary methods of metabolic engineering.

"I want to see product sales from our technology in less thanfour years," Leach said, "not the promise of a 'product in mylifetime,' as is the case with many biotech companies."

To this end, the Monrovia, Calif., company also announcedTuesday that it has raised another $2 million in developmentcapital from three of its current backers -- MontgomeryMedical Ventures II, MedCorp Development Fund, and privateinvestor and philanthropist Jeffry Picower -- to developspecific antibiotics. Exogene has raised more than $8 millionfrom venture capital investors since its inception in 1987.

Exogene's core technology is based on inserting hemoglobinfrom the Vitreoscilla microbe into other microbes to enhancetheir oxygen-using capabilities and therefore theirproductivity, explained David Rozell, Exogene's president.

The metabolic engineering is focused on production strains,especially Streptomyces and filamentous fungi, for certainantibiotics that the company intends to manufacture and sell asbulk intermediates, Rozell added. The technology is "strictly forimproving production processes for existing antibiotics," he toldBioWorld. "Some bulk antibiotics are still fairly expensive, andin certain cases there's lots of room to improve existingprocesses."

Exogene licensed its core technologies from the CaliforniaInstitute of Technology and also holds patents on the novelbacterial hemoglobin and its use to enhance cell growth andimprove the manufacture of products from cultured cells.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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