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Valentis, Gendaq Announce Gene Regulation Technology Developments

NEW YORK, Feb 14 - In two separate signs on Wednesday that gene regulation technology is beginning to gain momentum, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories announced it would license Valentis' gene regulation technology, and London-based Gendaq published a scientific explanation of its "zinc finger" gene switches in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

Valentis' technology, called GeneSwitch, helps researchers control the level and duration of selected genes in transgenic animals and cell cultures so they can better understand gene function.  

Wyeth-Ayerst, the pharmaceutical division of American Home Products, is the first commercial licensee of GeneSwitch, but academic institutions have had access to the technology through a license with Invitrogen. Valentis, of Burlingame, Calif., hopes to use the technology to develop a regulated erythropoietin gene medicine.  

Although financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, Wyeth-Ayerst will provide Valentis with an up-front payment and annual maintenance fees as part of the non-exclusive license.  

Separately, Gendaq published two papers describing the science behind its gene regulation technology in PNAS. 

The two papers outline new methods of constructing improved zinc finger protein multimers, biomolecules that bind to DNA sequences with high specificity. Gendaq uses these multimers to make Z-Switches, a product that regulates target genes for applications in functional genomics.  

Gendaq, based in London, is an offshoot of the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, UK. The start-up hopes to commercialize gene regulation technology based on the lab's research.  

These developments follow Ariad Pharmaceuticals' announcement on Tuesday that it had received a patent for a method to use small molecules to control gene expression in humans and other animals.

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