BALTIMORE -- A broad patent, covering the recombinanthuman hemoglobin (rHb) molecule, its method of manufactureand methods of use will be issued in June to Somatogen Inc.,the company announced on Tuesday.

Speaking here at the 16th annual Health Care Seminarorganized by Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., Somatogen President andChief Executive Officer Charles H. Scoggin said the company willinitiate human trials of rHb this year. The immediate marketwill be acute blood volume and red blood cell replacement,followed by subacute and specialty applications, Scoggin said.

A spokesman at company headquarters in Boulder, Colo., saidthe Patent and Trademark Office last week notified Somatogenthat its patent will be issued in June.

The technology involves "a proprietary genetic expressionsystem that allows us to make (rHb) as a soluble protein,"Scoggin said. The entire hemoglobin molecule is produced in asingle step.

There is an urgent need for a safe alternative to red blood celltransfusions, and rHb fills the bill, Scoggin said.

Somatogen, which is privately held, estimates that the for a blood substitute tops $1 billion. Demand for bloodis rising because of increased use of blood-intensiveprocedures, while an aging population is donating less bloodand the public supply is endangered by infection andcontamination.

Several other companies are developing blood substitutes. TheUpjohn Co. recently concluded an agreement with BioPure make a hemoglobin product. Other companies pursuing bloodsubstitutes include Baxter Health Care Corp., AlliancePharmaceutical Corp. and Enzon Inc.

-- Steve Usdin BioWorld Washington Bureau

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