Company with $34 million in the bank, a powerful patentposition and exclusive licensing agreements seeks meaningfulrelationship with deep-pocketed Significant Other.

Prospective partner will enhance our financial position withoutcomplicating our corporate lives, or messing in what we do onthe science side. The successful suitor will act as a principal inour commercial exploitation of somatic gene therapy -- forexample, contributing to our future sales force.

We would share profits on basis of respective contributions togoal of becoming preeminent firm in gene therapy field

Alliance we seek would bring us $60 million, either by equitypurchase at significant premium to value of stock, and/or R&Dfunding, with milestone payments and royalty rights.

This cash infusion would fund our business for three years,allowing us to husband our cash reserves.

Address proposals to David W. Carter, Chief Executive Officer,Somatix Therapy Corp., Alameda, Calif.

In almost so many words, Carter last Friday in New Yorkannounced his partnership quest to investor participants at theThird Annual Healthcare Conference of Oppenheimer Corp.,which makes a market in Somatix. He afterwards told BioWorldthat in recent months his company has entertained expressionsof interest from "a number of suitors, both onshore in the U.S.,and offshore," and has narrowed the field to "a single favorite,a major pharmaceutical company." Carter also confided that he"hopes but does not firmly predict" that the nuptial banns willbe posted "early in November 1992."

Prenuptial terms, Carter added, are being negotiated mainly byPeter F. Drake, executive vice president and director of equityresearch at Vector Securities International Inc. of Deerfield, Ill.

Larry Cohen, Somatix's director of molecular biology, told theconference that his company is in late-stage preclinicalresearch for applying retroviral vectorology to gene therapy ofsolid tumors. Farthest advanced is a strategy for removingresidual tumor cells from a patient (thus far, a mouse). Aftersurgically excising the bulk of the tumor, Somatix scientistsinserted the gene for granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) into the extracted cancerous cells,incubated the culture for several weeks to amplify the cellnumber, irradiated the transfected tumor cells to prevent themfrom replicating, then reimplanted them in the body. There,they churned out GM-CSF, which is presumed to activate killerT cells to mop up the remaining deposits of malignancy.

Cohen projected a chart showing similar experiments with adozen biological response modulators; only GM-CSF wiped outthe residual cancers.

Armed with this murine success in ex vivo (outside-the-body)gene transfer technology, Somatix aims for a Phase I clinicaltrial in 25 renal cell carcinoma patients "sometime betweenApril and June," Carter told BioWorld. But he and Cohenemphasize that much remains to be done at the mouse levelbetween now and then to prepare a valid IND.

Patents issued and pending, plus exclusive licenses, Carter toldhis audience, protect Somatix's title to gene therapy processesfor all five cell types -- endothelial, epithelial, fibroblasts,myoblasts and hepatocytes -- that can be transformed withgenes encoding useful cytokines or other immune systemenhancers. This expertise comes primarily from four of theforemost researchers in the still-futuristic field of somatic genetherapy, all of whom sit on Somatix's Scientific Advisory Board:

-- Molecular biologist Richard C. Mulligan, Whitehead Instituteand Massachusetts Institute of Technology;

-- Neuroscientist Fred Gage, University of California, San Diego;

-- Pediatrician Theodore Friedmann, University of California,San Diego;

-- Molecular biologist and virologist Inder Verma, SalkInstitute, San Diego

Mulligan collaborates with oncologist Drew Pardoll of JohnsHopkins University School of Medicine, who will conduct theimpending cancer clinical trials.

Besides its cancer program, Somatix is focusing its gene therapyR&D on Parkinson's disease and hemophilia, Carter said.

-- David N. Leff Science Editor

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

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