Cell Genesys Inc. will participate in a joint AIDS researcheffort that is being funded by a government grant of $1.7million, the company announced Wednesday.

The technology of the Foster City, Calif., company will be thecenterpiece of the effort to produce human T cells that can betransplanted into AIDS patients to treat their infections andmalignancies.

Over a three-year period, the grant will help support acollaboration with scientists at Harvard's Deaconess Hospitaland the Medical Biology Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

The Cooperative Drug Discovery Group grant provides thatcorporate participants will retain full commercial rights toany products discovered with the government funding, saidStephen Sherwin, Cell Genesys president and chief executiveofficer.

Under the program, Cell Genesys will continue its search forways to modify human T cells genetically, specificallytargeting genes by homologous recombinant technology. Thecompany will seek to add surface receptors that would boostthe cells' abilities to target diseased tissues in AIDS patients,while eliminating the markers on the T cells' surfaces thatwould cause them to be rejected.

The privately held company said it hopes to create universaldonor cells that could be used as transplants to treat broadpopulations of AIDS patients. The approach should prove usefulfor other cases of compromised immunity besides AIDS, "ageneral strategy for what could be a group of products,"Sherwin told BioWorld.

Cell Genesys is responsible for developing the transplantproducts, Deaconness researchers will test their effectivenessagainst AIDS in lab settings, and the Medical Biology Institutewill implant the modified T cells into their hu PBL-SCID mice,a model for human immunodeficiency.

The non-profit Medical Biology Institute has a 20-yearagreement with Lidak Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:LDAKA) ofLa Jolla, giving that company exclusive marketing rights totechnology developed by the institute. Any success withtransplanted T cells in the hu PBL-SCID mice should alsobenefit Lidak, Sherwin agreed, as it will help validate the miceas a model.

Participants have agreed not to disclose details of the grant'sfinancial arrangements.

-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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