Somatix Therapy Corp. said Wednesday it has exclusive rightsto a broad patent issued this week for gene therapy of centralnervous system disorders.

The patent, No. 5,082,670, covers methods for using geneticallymodified cells to treat CNS diseases such as Parkinson's andAlzheimer's. The patent also covers methods to treat damagedor defective CNS cells with genetically modified cells, vectorsused to insert genes of interest, various cell types and ways ofintroducing the cells into patients. It was issued to theUniversity of California.

"We expect this patent will be a fundamental prerequisite forany gene therapy product treating CNS disease, as well asdamaged or defective CNS cells," said David Carter, chiefexecutive.

Wanda DeVlaminck, director of regulatory affairs, toldBioWorld that modified cells would be injected directly into thebrain, avoiding problems of getting drugs past the blood-brainbarrier.

For Parkinson's, DeVlaminck said, Somatix is working ondelivering a tyrosine hydroxylase gene that would allow cellsto make dopamine. Tyrosine hydroxylase is a dopamineprecursor.

In a separate announcement, the company (NASDAQ:SOMA)said that it has filed for a public offering of 3 million shares ofcommon stock. If the offering is completed, Somatix will have12.6 million shares outstanding. Underwriters Robertson,Stephens & Co., Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. and Vector SecuritiesInternational Inc. have a 450,000-share overallotment option.

Shares of the Alameda, Calif., company closed up 50 cents at$13.25. It recently completed a merger with GeneSysTherapeutics Corp., a start-up gene therapy company.

Somatix plans to enter the clinic late this year with a cancertreatment consisting of inactivated tumor cells that have beengenetically modified by inserting lymphokines. -- KB

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