GenPharm International Inc. has exclusively licensed from theMassachusetts Institute of Technology and the WhiteheadInstitute worldwide rights to transgenic mice lacking a class ofantigenic proteins responsible for rejection of tissuetransplants.

GenPharm will develop the mice both for in-house researchand for sale to other researchers.

The mice lack two key immune system components. They failto express major histocompatibility complex class I, immunesystem proteins that identify one's own cells as "self". They alsolack "killer" T-cells, which normally attack and kill infectedcells.

These characteristics make the mice useful as an animal modelfor understanding both autoimmune diseases and the roleplayed by T-cells in viral diseases, bacterial infections andcancer.

Because the mice don't identify cells as "self," the mice will alsobe used as a model to investigate the development of humanuniversal donor cells. GenPharm hopes to develop similarhuman cells into which genes can be inserted for gene therapy.

This is a departure for GenPharm, which has specialized indeveloping and selling animal models for research. "This is anatural evolution of our technology," said Howard Rosen,GenPharm's manager of business development.

GenPharm, based in Mountain View, Calif., will pay an initiallicense fee and royalties on sales.

Cell Genesys Inc. of Foster City, Calif., has developed a similarmouse in conjunction with researchers at the University ofNorth Carolina. Cell Genesys has been using the mouse sinceearly 1990 as a model to develop universal donor cells forhuman therapeutics, said Stephen Sherwin, president and chiefexecutive officer. The company has no plans to sell the mouse.

Cell Genesys' first target is the development of universal donorretinal epithelial cells to combat macular degeneration, themost common cause of blindness in the elderly, said Sherwin.

MIT and the Whitehead Institute, and the University of NorthCarolina and Cell Genesys have filed for patents on theirrespective mice. Rosen said he was not familiar enough withthe genetic makeup of the two animals to know whether therecould be a patent conflict.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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