Enzo Biochem Inc. on Wednesday said it expects to gain astrong position in genetic antisense technology as a result ofthe settlement of a patent dispute between the StateUniversity of New York and the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology.

Enzo, SUNY's exclusive licensee, predicted it would receivebroad patent protection for its technology as a result of thesettlement. But Gilead Sciences Inc., MIT's licensee,downplayed the significance of the agreement.

The Patent and Trademark Office has held that MIT is notentitled to the claims of its patent, No. 4,740,463, for geneticantisensing technology. The judgment resulted from anagreement reached by the two universities under which MITconceded priority to SUNY's patent application.

The PTO had declared in July that the MIT patent interferedwith a patent application filed by SUNY. SUNY's applications,filed in October 1983 and March 1984, are still pending.

Enzo Therapeutics Inc., an Enzo Biochem subsidiary, isdeveloping a method of inhibiting acute HIV infection inlymphoid cells by inserting genes to produce antisense nucleicacid repressors against the AIDS virus. The company isdeveloping other anti-viral applications using antisense.

Enzo spokeswoman Carol Dempster said that the Farmingdale,N.Y., company is likely to be granted wide patent rights,including those claimed in the MIT patent.

Citing claim 22 of the patent, Dempster said, "I think that anycompanies doing genetic antisense technologies will have tolicense" from Enzo.

Claim 22 covers "a method of antagonizing the function of agene in a cell, comprising: a) constructing an artificial genewhich, upon transcription in said cell produces RNA transcriptcomplementary to RNA transcript produced by said gene; and b)introducing said artificially constructed gene into the cellcontaining said gene."

Michael Riordan, Gilead president and chief executive officer,told BioWorld that the MIT patent and any likely Enzo patents"are peripheral to our operations." The Foster City, Calif.,company is developing oligonucleotide-based therapeutics.

By contrast, genetic antisensing technology involvestransforming a cell with an antisense gene. "This can be veryuseful for research," said Riordan. "In terms of therapeutics, itis in the realm of gene transfer, which is not our business."

Representatives for Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Genta(NASDAQ:ISIP) and Genta Inc., which both are pursuingantisense applications, could not be reached for comment.

Enzo Biochem (AMEX:ENZ) closed at $1.63, up 13 cents onWednesday.

-- Steve Usdin BioWorld Washington Bureau

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