Chiron Corp. expects to receive a patent today covering itsmethods of quickly preparing and screening millions ofpotential drugs.

U.S. patent No. 5,194,392 applies to the Emeryville, Calif.,company's (NASDAQ:CHIR) mimotope technology. Developed byChiron Mimotopes Pty. Ltd. of Clayton, Australia, the systementails synthesizing up to 1,000 peptides a day on special pins.The peptides can be used to "map" regions called epitopes inany protein of interest, such as antigen regions that trigger animmune response by T cells.

The process may be applied to immunology, hormone-receptorinteractions and vaccine research.

Chiron acquired Chiron Mimotopes Pty Ltd. fromCommonwealth Serum Laboratories of Melbourne, Australia, in1991, and in January announced the establishment of ChironMimotopes U.S., which is based in Emeryville and Raleigh, N.C.This affiliate intends to offer peptides at "reagent prices,"discounting peptides produced in large numbers suitable forrapid screening as low as $18 per peptide.

Today's patent and a related U.S. patent, No. 4,833,092, stemfrom work developed by H. Mario Geysen, managing directorand chief scientist at Chiron Mimotopes Pty. Ltd.

"Chiron's technology is at the forefront of modern drugdiscovery research as currently practiced by a growing numberof biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies," said Walter H.Moos, vice president, chemical therapeutics research,preclinical development at Chiron Mimotopes.

The mimotope approach allows simultaneous screening of drugcandidates to identify groups that are best suited for furtherrefinement and testing. Compounds are screened based on theirability to bind targets, such as antibodies or receptors. Eachsuccessive cycle determines additional information about thestructure of the best compounds, eventually narrowed to aseries of leading candidates.

Chiron has licensed from the University of California, SanFrancisco (UCSF), rights to U.S. patent No. 5,010,175, coveringmethods of producing mixtures and selecting for bindingactivity.

The co-inventors of this patent are William Rutter, chairman ofChiron and professor emeritus at UCSF, and Daniel Santi, a UCSFprofessor.

While some companies already using the newly patentedtechnology may begin considering licensing the technologyfrom Chiron, the company primarily expects to benefit fromdeveloping new drugs in the second half of the decade, saidLarry Kurtz, corporate communications vice president.

Other companies, such as Affymax N.V. of Amsterdam, prepareand screen mass quantities of compounds with differenttechniques, Kurtz added.

Affymax uses computer chips instead of pins to synthesize andscreen thousands of drug candidates in only a few days in whatthe company calls "very large scale immobilized polymersynthesis."

Chiron may pursue oral drugs through design of "peptoids,"which are peptide-like compounds made from non-standardsubunits that can exert biological activity but remain stable inthe harsh environment of the stomach.

Chiron and collaborators reported about peptoid synthesis inthe October 1992 issue of the Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences.

Chiron's stock was up $3.88 a share on Monday, closing at$55.38.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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

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