Lifecore Biomedical Inc. has initiated a research agreementwith Iolab Corp. to develop a high molecular weight sodiumhyaluronate based on Lifecore's microbial fermentation processfor use in Iolab's ophthalmic products.

Under the terms of the agreement announced last week, Iolab,a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary based in Claremont, Calif., willfund the project for an undisclosed sum in exchange for theright to negotiate an exclusive commercial supply agreementcovering Iolab's ophthalmic use of the compound.

Iolab would protect Lifecore from potential patentinfringement claims by Pharmacia Biosystems AB ofSwitzerland, which holds a U.S. patent, No. 4,141,973, thatcovers certain hyaluronic acid fractions. Iolab has a license todevelop, manufacture and market the product.

"This license can be extended to Lifecore," Heinmiller said.

Lifecore's microbial fermentation process can produce a high-quality ophthalmic visco-elastic that can be used for the eye.The company said its sodium hyaluronate comes from amicroorganism that grows the compound in Lifecore'sproprietary fermentation process; the other source of thematerial is rooster combs.

"Ours is a whole different method," said Heinmiller. "We believeit's less susceptible to variability because it's a consistentsource, and we think it can be more economically scaled upthan an animal-rendered product."

Lifecore (NASDAQ:LCBM) of Chaska, Minn., develops sterilemedical devices for ophthalmic, orthopedic, and dental surgery.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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