Cytel Corp. is starting a development program based on aninteraction between white blood cells and their targets, aninteraction that goes awry in rheumatoid arthritis.

The privately held San Diego-based company announcedThursday that new findings on a cell adhesion molecule and itstarget have prompted the new program.

The VLA-4 cell adhesion molecule, on the surface of whiteblood cells, binds to a region in the protein fibronectin, whichserves as scaffolding for cell walls. The CS-1 component offibronectin binds VLA-4 on white blood cells and issignificantly elevated in the cells of patients with rheumatoidarthritis, the company said.

The company plans to publish its research on the CS-1 andVLA-4 interaction in rheumatoid arthritis, Jeryl Hilleman, vicepresident of finance, told BioWorld. The company has anexclusive license to a patent application filed by the FredHutchinson Cancer Research Center of Seattle, which coversthe interaction between VLA-4 and CS-1, as well as antibodiesthat block the interaction.

Cytel has a collaboration with Sandoz on another approach torheumatoid arthritis, based on the major histocompatibilitycomplex. The company is designing anti-inflammatory drugs toselectively treat such chronic inflammatory diseases aspsoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, and septic shock, withoutinterfering with the entire immune system. -- RobertaFriedman, Ph.D.

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