SAN FRANCISCO -- Calgene Inc. announced Wednesday that ithas received a notice of allowance from the Patent andTrademark Office on a broad patent covering the use ofantisense technology to turn off any plant gene in any plantspecies.

With the patent plus specific patents in tomatoes and oilsmodification, "we're seeking a technological lock on post-harvest physiology," said Dan Wagster, chief financial officer.

Calgene has exclusive rights to a 1989 patent onpolygalacturonase, the gene that causes pectin degradation.Other patents have been filed, and Calgene said it hopes tolicense rights to other key genes related to ripening androtting.

Calgene shares (NASDAQ:CGNE) rose $1.38 to $13.25.

"Anybody who's interested in changing the qualities of plantshas to be interested in turning off genes," said Roger Salquist,chairman and CEO of the Davis, Calif., company. "We willaggressively license out the technology, except in areas directlycompetitive with us," Salquist told BioWorld.

Other companies working with antisense in agbiotech includeMonsanto Co., ICI plc and Agritope Inc. Other methods arebeing developed to turn off genes. Transwitch technologydeveloped by DNA Plant Technology Corp. (NASDAQ:DNAP)identifies a target gene and inserts an extra copy back into thechromosome. This frequently results in the elimination of thecharacteristic encoded by the gene.

In a separate announcement, Calgene said it has formed awholly owned subsidiary, Calgene Fresh Inc., to grow, pack,distribute and sell fresh produce.

The company's initial product, a tomato genetically engineeredfor longer shelf life, should come to market in 1993, saidSalquist, here for the Hambrecht & Quist 10th Annual LifeSciences Conference.

The tomato is under review at the Food and DrugAdministration, and Calgene expects the agency to publish thefiling for public comment within the next 30 days. If approved,it would be the first genetically engineered food on the market.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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