Cell Genesys Inc. said Wednesday it will receive up to $30million as part of a research and joint venture agreement withJT Immunotech USA, a wholly owned U.S. medical subsidiary ofJapan Tobacco Inc.

Privately held Cell Genesys will receive the funds for researchsupport and an undisclosed minority equity investment by JTImmunotech.

In addition, the companies will establish a 50-50 joint ventureto develop and commercialize products based on humanmonoclonal antibodies. Cell Genesys, located in Foster City,Calif., and New York-based JT Immunotech will share equallyin worldwide rights to the resulting products.

As part of the joint venture, Cell Genesys will completedevelopment of a new strain of mouse capable of producingfully human MAbs, which should elicit little, if any, allergicreaction in patients and hence are useful for treatment ofchronic diseases.

Cell Genesys is replacing certain genes in mouse chromosomes,using homologous recombination. The technique places newDNA at the same site as the gene sequence it's replacing.

The resulting mice will have immune systems that producefully human antibodies in response to immunization, with avariety of antigens, including antigens of strictly humanorigin. Cell Genesys cited arthritis, organ transplant rejection,inflammation and cancer as indications for which thetechnology might prove useful.

Another mouse technology, known as the SCID/hu mouse,contains transplanted human immune cells and hence can'teasily recognize human antigens as foreign, said Dr. StephenSherwin, Cell Genesys' president and chief executive officer.This makes it harder to produce human MAbs against theseantigens, which have been implicated in chronic illnesses suchas arthritis.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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