Synergen Inc. and New York University Medical Center saidTuesday they have obtained a patent on the DNA sequence forhuman basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF).

This is the second bFGF patent issued to Synergen and NYU. Thefirst, issued in February, covered the protein for bFGF.Tuesday's U.S. patent is No. 5,026,839.

Synergen is conducting Phase III trials of its Trofak bFGF fortreatment of chronic skin ulcers. It also has a joint venturewith Syntex USA Inc. to develop bFGF to treat Alzheimer'sdisease, Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders.Those indications are in preclinical development.

Stock of the Boulder, Colo., company (NASDAQ:SYGN) rose 63cents on the announcement, closing Tuesday at $35.25.

Other companies developing FGF include CaliforniaBiotechnology Inc. and Chiron Corp. Cal Bio's bFGF is in Phase IIclinical trials for soft-tissue wounds.

Cal Bio has applied for a patent on its bFGF. According to PeterShearer, director of intellectual property at the company, CalBio's sequences aren't limited to any specific length of bFGF,while Synergen's are for a specific 157 amino acid sequence.

If a broad claim does issue, that could possibly block anarrower claim, said Shearer.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) declared aninterference proceeding in August 1989 between Cal Bio andChiron, which has licensed bovine FGF from the Salk Institute.That proceeding probably won't be resolved until mid-1992,said Shearer.

Tuesday's patent decreases the chances that Synergen could beexcluded from the FGF market and increases the chances thatthe company could dominate it, said analyst David Webber ofAlex. Brown & Sons in New York. "My guess is that Synergenwould press for dominance via its six- to 12-month clinicallead rather than via the swamp of litigation."

"Whether or not Synergen's patents would cover the otherproducts is the sort of thing that can only be determined incourt," said Webber. "My suspicion would be that since the CalBio and Salk products have substantially the same structureand are used in substantially the same way for substantiallythe same ends, in a trial a judge would invoke the doctrine ofequivalents in Synergen's favor."

Cal Bio stock (NASDAQ:CBIO) closed down 38 cents at $12.50.Chiron stock (NASDAQ:CHIR) closed down 25 cents at $52.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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