Genelabs Technologies Inc. has received a patent for diagnosticreagents that detect HTLV-I infection, a retrovirus that causesadult T cell leukemia/lymphoma, and HTLV-I associatedmyelopathy, a degenerative neurologic disorder.

Testing for HTLV-I infection is required for all blood donatedin the United States, France and Japan. The market exceeds$100 million worldwide, most of which is in the United States,said Dr. Edgar Engleman, chief scientific officer.

The patent issued Tuesday, No. 5,066,579, covers peptides thatare a small piece of the HTLV-I virus and diagnostic kitsincorporating those peptides. The peptides are "a piece of thevirus that seems to be the first one that is recognized by theimmune system of the infected host, so when people areinfected, the first antibodies they produce are directed towardthis particular piece," Engleman told BioWorld.

Genelabs is already marketing a confirmatory test using thistechnology in Asia and Europe through its licensee, DiagnosticBiotechnology (Pte) Ltd. of Singapore. The Redwood City, Calif.,company has developed a prototype test for the largerscreening market and plans to have developed a screening testfor non-U.S. markets in 1992, Engleman said.

"It is likely that all screening tests will have to use thistechnology because we have shown it is more accurate, moresensitive and substantially superior to anything that is in use,"he said.

The Genelabs test can differentiate between the relativelyharmless HTLV-II and the HTLV-I virus, and it can sense thevirus sooner than tests now on the market, Engleman said.

Genelabs is negotiating a licensing agreement with severalcompanies for the U.S. market, he said.

Among other companies in the market, Cellular Products(NASDAQ:CELP) is marketing in the United States a screeningtest for HTLV-I. Cambridge Biotech Corp. (NASDAQ:CBCX) has aconfirmatory HTLV diagnostic marketed for research use.Chiron Corp. (NASDAQ:CHIR) and Roche Biomedical Laboratoriesare also active in the blood screening market.

Genelabs stock (NASDAQ:GNLB) closed at $10.25, up 75 cents.

-- Kris Herbst BioWorld Washington Bureau

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