Somatogen Inc. has started Phase I trials of its rHb1.1, asynthetic, genetically engineered hemoglobin, the company saidMonday.

The hemoglobin is designed to provide oxygen transport fromthe lungs to the tissues as an infection-free red blood cellreplacement for blood lost in surgery. About 7.7 million unitsof red blood cells are transfused annually in the United States.

Somatogen shares (NASDAQ:SMTG) soared $6.50 to $40.50 inOctober after the Boulder, Colo., company said it had receivedFDA permission to begin human testing. The stock rose 50 centsto $31 on Monday.

The recombinant hemoglobin is stabilized by a single aminoacid, glycine, that bridges the four subunits of the molecule.Hemoglobin usually dissociates into dimers outside of red bloodcells. These dimers, which are filtered by the kidneys, may beresponsible for the renal toxicity seen with previous attemptsto design blood substitutes, the company said. -- KarenBernstein

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