The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) last week awardedthree patents for transgenic mice -- numbers 5,175,383,5,175,384 and 5,175,385 -- to Harvard University, GenPharmInternational and Ohio University, in that order. That makesthe Harvard mouse the second-ever patented animal.

The first, patented in 1988, was the "Harvard oncomouse,"which Philip Leder, chairman of genetics at Harvard MedicalSchool and a senior investigator of the Howard Hughes MedicalInstitute, engineered to grow malignant tumors for studyingcancer.

The "Harvard II" mouse got its assignation from Leder, whowas instrumental in its development, as well. This mouse hasbeen genetically engineered to develop benign prostatichypertrophy, the enlargement of the prostate gland that causesa common but serious urologic disorder that accounts forbillions of dollars in drugs, surgery and other medical costsannually.

In engineering the transgenic Harvard II mouse, Leder andassociate William Muller joined the int-2 oncogene, which codesfor a growth factor, to a control gene to ensure that the growthfactor would be produced in prostate tissue. Transgenic micecarrying this construct develop abnormally enlarged prostateglands and provide highly sensitive systems for testingpotential drug treatments and suspected carcinogens.

Du Pont of Wilmington, Del., which holds the license on theoncomouse, has been granted an exclusive license to producethe benign prostatic hypertrophy mouse.

Mountain View, Calif.-based GenPharm's patented mouse hasbeen altered so that it naturally fails to develop a fullyfunctional immune system. The Ohio University mouse containsa human gene that constitutively produces low levels of beta-interferon, making it virus-resistant.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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