Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. of New York has acquired a 75percent interest in privately held Genetic MediSyn Corp., anantisense company.

Genetic MediSyn of Columbia, Md., was formed in July 1991 asa wholly owned subsidiary of 6-year-old, privately heldSynthecell Corp., also of Columbia. Medicis, which pursues skincondition treatments, exchanged 1.27 million shares of its classA common stock in the acquisition. Medicis has 50 millionshares outstanding, a spokeswoman told BioWorld, and morethan 60 million shares on a fully diluted basis. Publicly tradedfor the past three years, the company has licensed in oracquired several of its over-the-counter and prescriptionproducts. The current acquisition is its first foray intobiotechnology.

Genetic MediSyn is developing antisense technology to treatmale pattern baldness, acne, hirsutism and enlarged prostate(benign prostatic hypertrophy).

Genetic MediSyn seeks to develop topical applications for theskin diseases. The prostate condition, which affects nearly 50percent of men over age 55, would need a different deliverysystem, such as a continuous-release polymer.

Male pattern baldness affects 47 percent of the U.S. malepopulation between the ages of 30 and 50 years. Hirsutism isan excessive growth of hair affecting 11 percent of women inthe U.S. Acne affects 17 million Americans annually.

The conditions are related to excess production of the enzyme 5alpha reductase, which turns testosterone into the much moreactive androgen dihydrotestosterone. Antisense technologyinvolves creating a complementary strip of DNA to fit snuglyagainst its target RNA like a zipper, blocking the RNA messageand stopping the synthesis of the protein implicated in thedisease.

Pharmacological evidence shows that inhibitors of 5-alphareductase can deter hair loss in animal models, MatthewsBradley, Genetic MediSyn's senior vice president for researchand development, told BioWorld.

The role of 5-alpha reductase was discovered through theidentification of genetic anomalies in isolated populations inSouth and Central America in which men lacking this genenever develop male pattern baldness, acne vulgaris or benignprostatic hypertrophy. These men, pseudo hermaphrodites, alsodo not develop genitalia until testosterone production increasesduring adolescence.

An antisense approach to acne and male pattern baldnessshould pose no concerns about liver toxicity or potential forbirth defects.

Genetic MediSyn has licensed from the University of TexasSouthwestern exclusive rights to use patented sequences forhuman 5 alpha reductase I and II for antisense therapyapplications for any disease.

Genetic MediSyn is also exploring antisense applications inarthritis, septic shock and inflammatory diseases. GMC maydevelop these on its own or license them to other companies.The antisense company already has collaborations and contractrelationships with the Naval Medical Research Institute,Washington Hospital Centers and University of TexasSouthwestern Medical Center.

Medicis does not intend to provide funds from its operatingbudget for GMC. "Medicis now has a controlling interest in acompany that we expect to develop several drugs in the largestdermatological markets over the next several years," said JonahShacknai, Medicis' chairman and chief executive officer. "GMCoffers cutting edge technology for potential products thatcomplement Medicis' existing product line and strong researchand development in dermatology."

Medicis' stock (NASDAQ:MDRXA) closed Wednesday at $1.13,off 18 cents a share.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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

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