Targeted Genetics Corp. and the Fred Hutchinson CancerResearch Center said Thursday that they have receivedapproval to begin a human gene therapy trial in HIV-infectedpatients undergoing bone marrow transplantation for AIDS-related lymphoma.

The goal of the trial will be to augment the immune response inpatients after the transplant, said H. Stewart Parker, presidentand chief executive.

Researchers will use CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocyte cells isolatedfrom patients. Targeted Genetics will use its HyTK retroviralvector to engineer into those T cells a fusion gene consisting ofa marker gene and a suicide gene. The engineered T cells willbe multiplied in tissue culture and infused into the patients.

The suicide gene, which is for susceptibility to the antibioticgancyclovir, will allow the cells to be destroyed in case anyproblems arise in the therapy.

Immunex Corp., TGC's parent company, also announcedThursday that it will spin off Targeted Genetics through aprivate placement to institutional investors and qualifiedprivate individuals. The Seattle company will provide $2.5million in funding and will retain a 40 percent interest in TGC.Hambrecht & Quist Inc. is the placement agent.

Immunex (NASDAQ:IMNX) formed TGC in 1989 tocommercialize its gene therapy technology. TGC is developingits technology in three areas: using retroviral vectors to delivernormal genes into cells; using cytokine genes to enhance theeffects of gene therapy; and isolating and cultivating antigen-specific T cells that target malignant or virally infected cells.

Immunex shares lost $3.63 to $54.63 on Thursday.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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