Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. has received an exclusive licenseto a technique that can identify new drugs using molecularaction at intracellular receptors.

Intracellular receptors are implicated in steroid-mediated andother diseases, such as osteoporosis, cancer, infertility,inflammatory conditions, and skin and cardiovascular diseases.

The assay, developed at The Salk Institute for Biological Studiesof San Diego, which holds the recently issued U.S. patent,engineers two gene vectors into lab-grown cells. One geneexpresses an intracellular receptor of interest. The other codesfor a promoter that the receptor activates.

Activation of the promoter will cause a reporter gene, such asluciferase, the enzyme that lights fireflies, to be expressed.

The new assay enables the potential biologic action of a drugcandidate to be evaluated, said Larry Respess, company vicepresident and general counsel.

Traditional receptor-binding assays merely measure thephysical attachment of a drug to its cellular receptor. The newmethod can also report whether the candidate will activate thereceptor or merely occupy it passively, antagonizing otherattempts to activate it, Respess said.

The privately held San Diego company focuses on intracellularreceptor technology and has 30 patent applications pending inthat area. -- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.