Somatix Therapy Corp. said Tuesday that it strengthened itspotential patent position in gene therapy by licensing methodsfor using a patientLs genetically modified tumor cells tostimulate an immune response against cancer.

Somatix (NASDAQ:SOMA) of Alameda, Calif., received theexclusive worldwide license from Johns Hopkins University ofBaltimore and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson CancerCenter in Houston, which have filed for a U.S. patent on themethods.

The approach to cancer treatment involves removing tumorcells from a patient and genetically modifying those cells sothat they produce lymphokines. Injected back into the patient,the treated cells stimulate the immune system to recognizecertain components of the tumor cells, called antigens, resultingin selective destruction of cancer cells throughout the body.

Somatix said it aims to file with the FDA late this year aninvestigational new drug (IND) application on the procedure,which might put the method into a clinical trial in 1993. Thelikely initial application of the method will be with cells thatproduce GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony stimulatingfactor) as a treatment of renal cancer, said John Archer,SomatixLs executive vice president.

Results of recent animal studies suggest that the generalapproach could be used to destroy established tumors andimmunize the animal against recurrences of the same tumor,the company said.

The research follows on a collaboration that evaluated a rangeof lymphokines in various tumor models conducted by DrewPardoll of Johns Hopkins with Richard Mulligan, an associateprofessor of molecular biology at the Whitehead Institute ofTechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Mulligan is the scientific founder of Somatix and chairman ofits scientific advisory board.

Somatix previously licensed from MITLs Whitehead Instituterights to genetically modified epithelial cells, the cell typeassociated with most tumors, and to modified fibroblast,endothelial and hepatocyte cells.

"The combination of the two licenses strengthens thecompanyLs proprietary position in the use of gene therapy totreat cancer," said David E. Carter, SomatixLs chief executiveofficer. Somatix acquired an exclusive worldwide license lastJanuary from Stanford University covering use of geneticallymodified autologous myoblasts, or muscle cells, for genetherapy.

Somatix Therapy was formed by the merger of Somatix Corp.and Hana Biologics in early 1991 and acquired GeneSysTherapeutics Corp. last January. Somatix raised $34.5 million ina secondary stock offering in February. -- Ray Potter

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