TSI Corp. said Friday it has been awarded a grant for morethan $500,000 from the National Institutes of Health to developtransgenic rabbits capable of producing human growthhormone (hGH) in their milk.

The ultimate goal of TSI's research is to produce large volumesof hGH at a lower price than is now possible, said Munro Pitt,chief financial officer. Human growth hormone is now producedin genetically engineered cell cultures of E. coli bacteria.

However, developing transgenic animals capable of producingcommercial quantities of hormones in their milk is "bestdescribed as a long-term development program," said Pitt. "It'sunlikely that transgenic animals in the near future will beviable competitors producing human pharmaceuticals," he said.

Genentech Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. sell hGH for growth hormone-deficient children, a $200 million U.S. market, and aredeveloping the drug for other uses. Bio-Technology GeneralCorp. is testing hGH to prevent wasting in cancer patients andwill begin trials by July to prevent wasting in AIDS patients.

TSI's next step, if hGH is successfully produced in rabbits, willbe to move to larger animals, such as goats or cows, ascommercial vehicles, said Pitt. The market for hGH could growif the hormone proves useful for aging and other indicationswith large markets

TSI, based in Worcester, Mass., will do the work under a PhaseII Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. Thecompany demonstrated the feasibility of producing hGH in themilk of transgenic mice under a Phase I SBIR grant it receivedin 1990.

TSI also announced Friday that it has received two patents onits TMBlue Precipitating Reagent and TMBlue Soluble Reagentproducts. TMBlue is a chromogenic substrate used in diagnosticassays. It has been marketed since 1990.

TSI stock (NASDAQ:TSIN) closed unchanged Friday at $6.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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