Gliatech Inc. has obtained exclusive worldwide rights to threetechnologies that the company plans to develop intotreatments for injured and diseased nerve cells.

Gliatech, based in Beachwood, Ohio, derives its name fromglial cells, which, along with neurons, are the key componentsof the nervous system, said company President Dr. ThomasOesterling. Glial cells not only tell neurons where to grow andhow to organize during development, but also lay down themyelin sheath that surrounds and protects peripheral nerves.Gliatech has licensed technology for the glial anti-proliferative protein (GAP) from the University of California,San Diego. GAP specifically targets glial-derived brain tumorsand excessive scar formation, making the protein a candidateanti-tumor and anti-scarring agent, said Oesterling. Thecompany is carrying out animal studies to identify a long-lasting formulation of the drug.

Oesterling predicts that Gliatech will begin clinical testing ofGAP to block brain tumor cell growth in 1993. He said 10,000to 20,000 patients annually could benefit from the treatment.Gliatech also licensed a technique to repair peripheral nervecells from the University of Miami. The developer of thistechnology, Dr. Richard Bunge, is chairman of Gliatech'sscientific advisory board. The peripheral nerve repair systemwill use either a combination of cell factors or glial cellsthemselves to help regenerate injured nerves.

The delivery vehicle for the peripheral repair system, apolymer tube, is the subject of the third license agreement.Developed by Gliatech advisory board member Dr. PatrickAebischer at Brown University, the biodegradable tube willserve as a channel to guide nerve cell regeneration. The tubewill contain either factors or glial cells to aid in nerve tissuerepair, said Oesterling. He said he hopes to begin clinicaltesting of this product in 1993. About 100,000 patientsannually could benefit from this treatment, he added.

Gliatech has raised $4.5 million in a second round of venturefunding.

The round included two new investors, New EnterpriseAssociates (NEA), and Chemicals and Materials EnterpriseAssociates (CMEA). In conjunction with these investments,Donald Murfin, CMEA general partner and NEA special partner,was added to Gliatech's board of directors. All of Gliatech'soriginal investors joined in the second round: Brantley VenturePartners, Chancellor Capital Management, Continental IllinoisVenture Corp., Montgomery Medical Ventures and MorgenthalerVentures.

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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