Scotgen Ltd. and Vasocor Inc. announced Thursday that theyhave merged to form a new entity, Scotgen BiopharmaceuticalsInc. (SBP).

The private, development-stage company will focus ondeveloping humanized monoclonal antibodies for the diagnosisand treatment of cardiovascular disease, serious infectiousdisease and cancer.

SBP, with headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (the home ofVasocor) and a research center in Aberdeen, Scotland (thehome of Scotgen) also announced that it has completed a $7million round of financing from investors Charter Ventures, EG& G Holdings Inc., EG & G Ventures, Gryphon Ventures and NewYork Life Insurance Co.

Scotgen Ltd. shareholders will get 65 percent of the newcompany, with Vasocor shareholders getting 35 percent.

Scotgen Ltd. brings to the new company its expertise inhumanizing monoclonal antibodies, in particular its proprietaryframework reshaping and effector function modificationtechnologies, which builds on researcher Greg Winter's (of theUnited Kingdom's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology) workon complementarity-determining region (CDR) grafting.

SBP's product portfolio consists of 12 therapeutic and imagingproducts, three of which are in preclinical testing. Thecardiovascular products employ a specific molecular marker orantigen found on the surface of atherosclerotic plaque cells,which was discovered at Vasocor, explained Robert Fildes, chiefexecutive officer of Scotgen Biopharmaceuticals and former CEOat Cetus Corp.

"The company then developed an antibody against that antigen,which is unique to plaque cells, and is not found on normalcells," Fildes told BioWorld. "The antigen and antibody both areprotected by patents pending."

One application of the technology is to complex the antibody toa radioactive element to produce an imaging agent that couldlocate the site of atherosclerosis in the body, Fildes said. "We'vedone this with animals, and we can determine both where theplaques occur and to what extent. ... In particular, it shouldallow us to detect plaque development at an earlier stage," heexplained.

The plaque antibodies could also find applications in therapy,such as coupling them with laser techniques for pinpointingand treating arterial blockages.

As well, Fildes said, the company is beginning to developscreens for compounds to prevent further development ofplaque or to destroy the plaque outright.

SBP is using Scotgen's technique for humanizing antibodies to"come up with safe products," Fildes told BioWorld. "Scotgenhas successfully humanized more than 20 antibodies ... incontract work for major biotechnology and pharmaceuticalcompanies. ... They know the tricks."

The company still has six active contracts, but "none are onproducts that overlap with what we're doing on our ownaccount," Fildes added.

Scotgen Biopharmaceuticals expects to take its atheroscleroticimaging product into the clinic later this year, and itshumanized antibody for treating respiratory syncytial virus(RSV) infection is in preclinical research. "We have licensed ouranti-RSV product, the first humanized antibody for aninfectious disease, to SmithKline Beecham," Fildes said. EthylCorp. of Richmond, Va., has received an option to license theatherosclerotic imaging agent for marketing in the U.S.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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

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