The French antisense company Genset announced Friday it hasstarted clinical trials with two antisense drugs for chronicmyelogenous leukemia.

The trials, conducted under a French request for compassionatetreatment, involve compounds GT1102 and GT1106.

In the first stage, Genset and its collaborators are testing theactivity of these compounds for bone-marrow purging in tissueculture. In a second stage, some patients at a blast crisis stagewill be selected for autologous bone marrow transplant therapyafter treatment with Genset's oligonucleotides. The trials shouldbe completed during the first half of 1993.

Genta Inc. was the first company with an antisense compoundin the clinic in 1991, but the company decided to commercializechemical compounds for dermatological applications beforemarketing its leading biotechnology compounds.

Last summer, the University of Nebraska Medical Center inOmaha conducted the first systemic antisense compoundtreatment in a 20-year-old patient with acute myelogenousleukemia.

Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City, Calif., and PharmaGenics ofAllendale, N.J., have also announced pursuit of antisensetherapeutics for leukemia and other cancers.

There are about 12,000 cases of myelogenous leukemiaannually in the U.S. Antisense oligonucleotides block productionof a protein that causes the white blood cells to growuncontrollably.

In France, Pascal Brandys, Genset's chief executive officer, saidhe believes his company has superior pharmaceutical gradeantisense DNA.

"With our new proprietary large-scale synthesizer we canproduce efficiently grams of a synthetic oligonucleotide in onebatch, with unmatched synthesis time, yield and purity," hesaid. He added that their oligonucleotides are not cytotoxic andresist cellular nuclease degradation.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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