Boston Life Sciences Inc. (BLSI), a start-up biotechnologycompany developing therapeutic molecules for chronic diseasessuch as atherosclerosis and Parkinson's, announced Thursdaythat it has raised $3 million in a first-round private placementfinancing. The equity financing was handled by the CastleGroup Ltd. of New York.

The Waltham, Mass., company was founded in October 1992 byMarc Lanser, now president and chief executive officer,primarily to develop and commercialize discoveries coming outof Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospitals.

In fact, BLSI has been supporting much of that research, hasobtained exclusive rights from Harvard to develop theseproducts (most of which have composition-of-matter and/oruse patents pending) and intends to funnel most of its newlyacquired funds into further R&D support for the BLSI-sponsored research programs, Lanser told BioWorld.

One of the disease areas that BLSI is targeting is cancer, inparticular to develop compounds that could inhibit thedevelopment of the blood vessel networks that allow tumors togrow. A likely candidate for drug development is a factortermed cartilage-derived inhibitor (CDI), first discovered atHarvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. CDI is aglycoprotein produced by cartilage cells and according toLanser, "appears to be the most potent anti-angiogenesis factorknown."

The purified natural CDI molecule has been shown in vitro toinhibit endothelial cell division and migration. In rabbitmodels, CDI is effective in preventing tumor growth inimplanted tumors and is also able to inhibit neovascularizationof the cornea in response to angiogenic stimuli, Lanser said.

BLSI researchers are now "in the process of obtaining therecombinant molecule, which will be the clinical material," headded.

Company researchers are also developing a monoclonalantibody-based tumor-targeting system for directing diagnosticand therapeutic molecules to tumors while simultaneouslyminimizing the non-specific binding and maximizing thenumber of molecules localized to the tumor.

This approach involves the use of "antibodies linked to DNAintercalators, protected DNA and intercalators attached to thetherapeutic or diagnostic molecule" in a three- to five-stepprocess that "is the in vivo equivalent of an ELISA" and resultsin amplifying the therapeutic molecule or diagnosticradionuclide 100,000-fold, Lanser told BioWorld.

Boston Life Sciences also is developing a new class of molecules(non-biological) to diagnose and treat Parkinson's disease,Lanser explained. The diagnostic, he said, is "the first moleculethat appears to be able to be used to quantify the number ofdopamine transporters in the brain (which disappear inParkinson's) using single photon emission tomographyscanning." If it pans out," he said, "this would be "the first non-invasive means to diagnose and monitor Parkinson's."

The company's fourth research focus is on devising strategiesto combat transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases. Theapproach is to control MHC class II (histocompatibility)expression by cloning a critical MHC II transcription factor "webelieve is the most upstream factor controlling MHC IItranscription and therefore expression in macrophages," Lanserexplained.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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