When Cell Genesys Inc. of Foster City, Calif., opened its doorslast year, the company recruited top management right in theneighborhood. It tapped two top employees from GenentechInc., just a few miles away in South San Francisco.

Stephen Sherwin, Genentech's former vice president of clinicalresearch, became Cell Genesys' president and chief executiveofficer. He brought in as vice president of research DanielCapon, who had headed up Genentech's soluble CD4 effort. Thetwo set Cell Genesys on a course of developing products basedon the use of homologous recombination to insert geneticinformation into specific sites within chromosomes.

One of Cell Genesys' primary goals is to create "universal donor"cells for transplantation and as possible vehicles for genetherapy. The company envisions making universal cells byreducing the expression of certain cell surface proteins thatwarn a patient's immune system of the presence of foreigntissues. It expects that the first product to reach the clinicaltrials will be donor retinal epithelial cells for treating maculardegeneration, a major cause of blindness.

Also on Cell Genesys' agenda are activating genes to enhancetheir production of therapeutic proteins, and inserting humanantibody genes into mice to produce human monoclonalantibodies. The company's 20-member scientific staff includesgeneticists, molecular biologists, immunologists and cellbiologists.

Cell Genesys raised $7.2 million in its first round of venturefinancing in mid-1990, bringing the company's total resourcesto $8.5 million. Investors include the Mayfield Fund, RobertsonStephens & Co., U.S. Venture Partners, Interwest Partners andStanford University. -- Cynthia Robbins-Roth, Ph.D.

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