A Nobel Prize recipient from the University of Colorado onTuesday was issued the first U.S. patent for ribozymes, the so-called "gene-shears" that are seen to hold broad potentialdiagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Thomas R. Cech shared with Sidney Altman of Yale Universitythe 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery ofribozymes, which are RNA molecules with enzymatic activity.Ribozymes show potential for use in cutting defective geneticsequences out of cells and are being studied as a means to haltthe replication of RNA-based viruses. They are also beingstudied for potential use in diagnostic kits to detect specificgenetic sequences.

University Patents Inc. of Westport, Conn., the assignee ofCech's patent, in 1987 granted exclusive worldwide rights forthe technology to U.S. Biochemical Corp. (USBC) of Cleveland.The company in 1989 launched the RNAzyme TET 1.0, aribozyme-based product for use in research.

USBC seeks strategic alliances to develop uses for ribozymes inhuman and animal therapeutics and diagnostics, said ThomasA. Mann, USBC's president and chief executive officer. "Nosingle laboratory has the capability to develop the technologyall by itself," he said.

The Cech patent covers purified and man-made ribozymes,production methods and their use in cleaving other RNAmolecules. -- Carol Ezzell

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