Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Monday that it has received a$50,000 Phase I small business innovation research grant fromthe National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases tosupport development of an antisense compound targeted athuman papilloma virus (HPV).

Genital warts caused by the virus can lead to cervical cancer.

Isis has targeted a specific gene product of HPV that thecompany believes is responsible both for viral replication andlatency, said Christopher Mirabelli, senior vice president ofresearch and preclinical development at the Carlsbad, Calif.,company.

Isis' compound "would not only inhibit viral replication, butwould inhibit replication of the episomal DNA that is the causeof latency in papilloma infection," Mirabelli said.

Episomal DNA is a circular piece of DNA that is not part of thechromosomal DNA in a cell. When HPV is latent, the virusresides as a piece of episomal DNA in the basal epithelium ofthe skin.

Benign warts are now removed either chemically or surgically,but that leaves basal cells containing latent virus, which canlead to new warts. Those basal cells and the latent virusconstantly divide. "We're hoping that if you could inhibitreplication of the episomal DNA, eventually the basal layerwould lose the pieces of viral DNA," Mirabelli said. -- KB

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