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HGS Teams with Isner, Cato, Hospital to Form Gene Therapy Company

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ROCKVILLE, Md.--Human Genome Sciences here has teamed up with Cato Holding, St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston, and researcher Jeffrey Isner to launch Vascular Genetics, a new company to develop and commercialize gene therapy products that rely on a delivery technique invented by Isner, who is St. Elizabeth's chief of cardiovascular research. The technique involves injecting genetic material directly into patients with clogged arteries to make new arteries grow.

Bioinformatics is expected to play a big role in the new venture, according to Lynda Sutton, senior vice-president of regulatory affairs and project planning at Cato Research and a member of Vascular Genetics' board of directors. "It's a great time to be in drug development because of bioinformatics," she observed. Bioinfor matics tools helped re searchers identify the first gene to be used by the new firm and may be involved in developing up to two more gene targets. The company will also use bioinformatics tools to collect and structure test data for submission to the Food and Drug Admin istration.

The new company will begin work early next year and will hire staff as needed, Sutton continued, adding that Vascular Genetics will contract out much of its work, as it does not plan to be a full-service company.

Cato holds 40.1 percent of the new company and will handle general management, regulatory strategy, and clinical development. Isner and St. Elizabeth's each hold 20 percent and will assign patent rights for the new proprietary DNA delivery technology. Human Genome Sciences has a 19.9 percent stake, with warrants for the purchase of an additional 5.1 percent, and will contribute certain gene therapy rights and business development services.

Vascular Genetics will pay royalties on net sales to St. Elizabeth's and Human Genome Sciences from products developed and commercialized by it or a sublicensee.

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