CellPro Inc. announced Thursday that it received three end-of-the-year U.S. patent allowance notices for cell-selectiontechnology it licenses from the Fred Hutchinson CancerResearch Center.

The Bothell, Wash., company (NASDAQ:CPRO) developsproprietary, continuous-flow cell-selection systems fortherapeutic, diagnostic and research applications.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, an independent,non-profit research institution, has licensed novel methodsdeveloped there to CellPro since 1989, when Ronald Berenson,CellPro's vice president of biological research and medicalaffairs, left the center to found the company.

The cell-selection system exploits the high affinity betweenavidin, a glycoprotein found in egg whites, and the vitaminbiotin, and is the only continuous-flow column using avidin,biotin and monoclonal antibodies for cell selection, said LeeParker, CellPro director of investor relations.

"This essentially gives us patent protection for the use ofavidin-biotin in continuous flow columns," he said, adding thatthe patent is not expected to issue for three or four monthsbecause of patent office backlogs.

Selected aspects of the technology are already covered bypatents in Canada and Europe, where the company expects tobegin marketing in mid-1993.

"This is an extremely important and versatile technology,which allows the selection of large numbers of viable cells withhigh yields and purities," said Richard D. Murdock, president ofCellPro. "We are moving rapidly to bring products based on thiscore technology to market."

From this technology CellPro developed its Ceprate SC stem cellconcentration system that should reduce the amounts ofpotentially irritating cell fragments and preservative DMSO,which is toxic in high concentrations, that result fromconventional methods.

Phase I/II clinical trials have started with this product forperipheral blood stem cell transplantation in women with late-stage breast cancer, to permit higher dosages of chemotherapy,which inhibits tumor growth but also bone marrowregeneration. Phase III trials are starting for autologous bonemarrow transplantation.

CellPro is also participating in several gene therapy trials thatrely on Ceprate technology. The company has undertaken or isplanning additional studies of stem cell therapy applications inallogenic bone marrow transplantation and adjunctivechemotherapy. CellPro is also developing applications targetingother cell types, particularly fetal cells from maternal blood forgenetic testing.

CellPro would handle initial marketing, if it receives FDAapproval, to the approximately 250 bone marrow transplantcenters in the U.S., Parker said.

The technology, which the Hutchinson center is licensing toCellPro with indefinite extensions, enables improved bonemarrow transplantation, Parker said.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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