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TRANSGENE's SYSTEM FOR GAMMA INTERFERON, INTERLEUKIN-2 PRODUCTION IS SUPPLYING ROUSSEL-UCLAF; FRENCH FIRM IS ALSO DEVELOPING ALPHA-1-ANTITRYPSIN

Executive Summary

Transgene's production systems for gamma interferon and interleukin-2 are being utilized by Roussel-Uclaf and Roussel-Uclaf/Sanofi, according to company information presented at a health care investment conference sponsored by L. F. Rothschild Oct. 21-22 in London. The French genetic engineering firm reported in background material that it has "developed sytems for producing gamma interferon under contract with Roussel-Uclaf, which is undertaking the product's pharmaceutical development." In addition, the joint venture firm Roussel-Uclaf/Sanofi has purchased Transgene's system for producing interleukin-2. Transgene President Etienne Eisenmann described the company's research efforts at the conference, which focused on European health care concerns. He indicated that at least one of Transgene's products, alpha-1-antitrypsin, is close to licensing, and said discussions are underway with a number of companies. Transgene explained that alpha-1-antitrypsin is naturally produced by the liver and when it is lacking, "either for hereditary reasons or due to smoking, emphysema occurs in the lungs." The company said it has produced the product in several microorganisms and using protein engineering techniques has also "designed and produced modified proteins whose new properties hold promise for the treatment of other diseases." At least one company in the U.S., Cooper Biomedical, is also developing alpha-1-antitrypsin. Transgene began clinicals in 1984 for use in emphysema of genetic origin and in 1985 obtained an orphan designation for alpha-1-antitrypsin use as supplementation therapy for deficient members of the ZZ phenotype population. In the area of vaccine research, Transgene noted that it has adapted a "technique of transformation of viruses by genetic engineering" to obtain a new type of vaccine. The company's first vaccine, a rabies vaccine, is being developed by Merieux Institute. Transgene said it is also applying its technology to development of an AIDS vaccine under contract from Pasteur Vaccins and in collaboration with the Pasteur Institute. The company's other research programs include development of hirudin, an "anticoagulant agent secreted by leeches that Transgene has identified for use in treating thrombosis." Transgene said it has developed a production system using microorganisms "that makes applications of hirudin feasible for the first time in therapy and diagnosis."

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