Microprobe Corp. of Garden Grove, Calif., has been awarded a$500,000 Phase II grant from the National Institutes of Healthto develop a means to increase the entry of its anti-genecompounds into cells.

The company is developing a broadly applicable deliverysystem to get its anti-viral drugs into the liver, with hepatitis Bas a prime target.

All antisense and anti-gene approaches face the hurdle ofgetting their nucleotide-based drugs into cells. Gregory Sessler,chief financial officer, said the company's solution is"conceptual at this point, but the point of the grant is to proveit out."

Sessler said Microprobe plans to move its liver cell entrysystem into animal testing by early next year.

Antisense agents tie up messenger RNA, preventing thetranslation of genetic instructions. Anti-gene therapy would bemore efficient because it would prevent readout of the geneitself. Less drug would be required, the gene would bepermanently disabled, and the therapeutic would be lessexpensive and have fewer side effects than antisense therapy.

Other companies working on anti-gene approaches includeTriplex and Gilead.

The small business innovation research grant was awarded tothe privately held company's therapeutics division in Bothell,Wash. -- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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