Innovir Laboratories Inc. announced Wednesday that a U.S.patent, No. 5,168,053, covering therapeutic applications ofribozyme (RNA enzyme) was issued to Yale University onTuesday.

Licensed exclusively to Innovir, the patent covers the use ofsmall, specific RNA segments called external guide sequences(EGSes) that target key disease-causing molecules known asmessenger RNAs (mRNAs). EGSes direct the cellular ribozymeelement Ribonuclease P (RNase P) to mRNA targets, where theRNase P cleaves (cuts) the mRNA targets, thus inactivatingthem.

According to Innovir of New York, EGS-based drugs are morespecific than conventional drugs and can be reused inside thecell. And only small amounts of the EGS drugs are required toachieve therapeutic activity because the drugs are reused andafter interacting with a target mRNA, become available tointeract with other target molecules.

Innovir said its EGS technology may lead to the development ofa new class of therapeutics to treat diseases of viral, microbialand cellular origin, including cancer.

According to Allan Goldberg, Innovir's chairman and chiefscience officer, the company is working on several key viraldiseases and certain malignancies, and expects to includecertain microbial diseases.

"Securing the patent is important, as it provides for us a long-term proprietary position in the field of catalytic RNA,"Goldberg said.

Innovir was founded in October 1989 by Goldberg and HughRobertson of the Cornell University Medical College. Principalfunding was provided by Hambro International Equity Partnersof New York. The company was formed to develop catalytic(ribosome-based) therapeutics.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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