Phyton Catalytic Inc. has formed a collaborative research anddevelopment partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb to developa plant cell tissue culture process for the production of theanti-cancer drug taxol.

Terms of the annually renewable contract were not disclosed inTuesday's announcement. For the most part, said PhytonPresident Rus Howard, "Bristol-Myers will provide funds andwe will provide technology." He added: "They're looking at usfor more than just taxol. They're looking at us to educate themabout a new technology."

Howard said cell culture-derived taxol will most likely reachmarket in about three years.

Taxol has shown promise in Phase III clinical trials forrecurrent ovarian cancer and is also in Phase II trials for breastcancer. But it takes six 100-year-old Pacific yew trees tosupply sufficient taxol to treat one patient for a year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture holds a patent onproduction of taxol in tissue culture, and in 1990 entered into acollaborative research and development agreement withIthaca, N.Y.-based Phyton. Privately held Phyton has anexclusive license on the process from the USDA.

In October, the National Cancer Institute awarded a $1.27million grant to a five-member consortium to study large-scaletaxol production using suspension cell tissue culture. Membersare Phyton, Hauser Chemical Research Inc., Cornell University,the USDA's Agriculture Research Service and Colorado StateUniversity.

Escagenetics Corp. of San Carlos, Calif., is also developing taxolusing a cell culture technology. Its stock (AMEX:ENS) closed at$9, up 38 cents. -- KB

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