Pharmakon Research International Inc., a pharmacology,toxicology and pharmacokinetic testing service, introducedWednesday its first animal model that can be used to screendrugs for treating the glucose intolerance associated with TypeII diabetes.

The transgenic mouse, called Biodigm-IGT, has been geneticallyengineered to express elevated levels of insulin, the presenceof which makes the mouse hyperinsulinemic and glucose-intolerant.

The Biodigm transgenic mouse is proprietary to DNX Corp.(NASDAQ:DNXX), Pharmakon's parent company. It's producedby microinjecting purified DNA fragments containing the geneof interest into the pronucleus of fertilized eggs.

The basic method of producing transgenic animals through DNAmicroinjection is covered by U.S. Patent No. 4,873,191, whichwas assigned to Ohio University in Athens, and to which DNX isthe exclusive licensee.

But exactly how the mouse has been engineered is not asrelevant to its use as a target for drug intervention as is theresultant phenotype. "This is a drug screen; it's not a model ofthe etiology of the disease," cautioned Steven Holtzman, DNX'svice president of corporate development.

As such, "not only could this model speed the development ofdrugs to treat Type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes andbenefit the millions of sufferers of maturity-onset diabetes, itmay also reduce both the cost of drug development and thenumber of animals used for testing in this area," said VincentCiofalo, vice president of Pharmakon USA of Waverly, Pa.

DNX and Pharmakon are also developing transgenic animalmodels to test for drugs to treat heart disease, Alzheimer's,emphysema and inflammation, said Paul Schmitt, president andchief executive officer of DNX.

"The potential of transgenic models for commercial drug testingpurposes was a significant factor in DNX's 1991 decision toacquire Pharmakon," Schmitt said.

There's already enough demand from pharmaceutical andbiotechnology companies for Pharmakon's testing services thatit's outgrown its current facilities. The company also announcedWednesday that it has received loans totaling $2.7 million fromthe Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) forfacilities expansion.

"The availability of debt financing from the state ofPennsylvania will enable us to quickly increase our operationsand capacity," said Richard Matthews, president of PharmakonUSA.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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