Advanced Tissue Sciences Inc. (ATS) has taken its first step tolicense its living skin replacement in Japan, with a preliminaryagreement with Mitsubishi Kasei Corp.

Mitsubishi Kasei has a proven track record withbiopharmaceuticals in Japan, said Jim Linton, ATS's manager ofprogram administration.

The diversified global chemical company is currentlydistributing tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) and a hepatitisB vaccine it licensed from Genentech Inc. of South SanFrancisco, Calif., Linton said.

Under the agreement with ATS, Mitsubishi Kasei will evaluatesome of the La Jolla, Calif., tissue engineering company'sproprietary technology, with the intent to use that informationto move to clinical trials in Japan, Linton said. The tissue couldpotentially be used to treat patients suffering from severeburns and chronic skin ulcers. Specific terms of the agreementwere not disclosed.

"The objective will be to sign a licensing agreement if theevaluation is favorable," Linton told BioWorld.

This agreement provides ATS with an opportunity to line up astrategic partner that could provide the company with someaccess to capital, he added.

Because no engineered human tissue has been tested in Japan,the company is conducting research to determine the marketand pricing, he added.

In the U.S., the tissue is in clinical trials for evaluation in thetreatment of severe burns and chronic venous skin ulcersunder an investigational device exemption (IDE) approved bythe FDA, Linton said. The FDA has approved clinical trials totreat decubitus and diabetic ulcers. Those trials are planned tobegin later this year.

The tissue has been developed under the brand nameDermagraft with ATS's proprietary three-dimensional culturesystem. The company has also successfully replicated humancartilage, oral mucosa, bone marrow and liver tissue.

ATS's stock (NASDAQ:ATIS) closed at $11.63 a share onThursday, down 13 cents.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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