Genelabs receives seven patent allowances for its DNA-binding technology
Merlin, the platform technology on which Genelabs' DNA-binding drug program is based, has already been awarded broad patents in the US, Canada, and Australia. The new patents will claim technologies for: screening biological, chemical and combinatorial chemistry libraries to identify novel DNA-binding molecules; profiling these molecules to determine sequence binding preferences; methods for designing molecules to target sequences of sufficient length for functional specificity; and confirming sequence binding preferences. Additionally, the company has also received a composition of matter patent allowance broadly claiming small, organic molecules that bind to DNA in a sequence-specific manner to alter gene expression by displacing transcription factors from their binding sites. These allowances add to the strong intellectual property position Genelabs has built around its gene-regulating drug discovery program.
"The ability to selectively block the interaction of certain factors with their DNA-binding sites using small molecules has the potential for opening up an entirely new class of pharmaceuticals," stated Dr. Edwards. "The power of such an approach lies in the "universal" structure of DNA. Once molecular building blocks have been identified using Merlin, the drug discovery process could be markedly shortened for any therapeutic area in which gene expression plays a causal role."
Genelabs believes that gene-regulating drugs have the potential to bring significant value to the ongoing genomics efforts in academics and industry, which are providing a wealth of information about the genes involved in disease processes. As the knowledge of the genes involved in diseases increases, so do the potential targets for Genelabs' entirely new class of drugs, gene-specific DNA-binding drugs.
At the end of 1996, the company received a US patent covering the therapeutic use of small-molecule drugs that act by binding to a sequence-specific region of a gene and displacing a regulatory protein from its binding site, potentially creating an entirely new field of drugs for the regulation of disease-associated genes. The patent specifically claims a method for altering the binding characteristics of a DNA-binding protein (e.g., a transcription factor) by adding a small-molecule drug that binds to a target region in the DNA that is adjacent to or overlapping a regulatory protein binding site.
Genelabs is working with The DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company (Wilmington, DE) to jointly develop small molecule gene-regulating drugs for certain target genes and Genelabs retains the ability to establish other types of collaborations as well.
James A.D. Smith, chief operating officer, said, "Given the breadth of our intellectual property portfolio and our accumulating expertise in the field, we believe Genelabs is well positioned for the discovery of novel gene-regulating drugs, not only for internal development, but as a preferred partner for pharmaceutical companies such as our collaborator DuPont Merck." Genelabs is a global biopharmaceutical and diagnostics company focused on gene-regulating drug discovery; infectious diseases including hepatitis; and immunological disorders including lupus. The company's lead pharmaceutical compound, GL701, is in Phase III clinical trials as a new therapy for systemic lupus erythematosus. The lead research program is based on a proprietary enabling technology, Merlin, for creating gene-specific, small organic, DNA-binding molecules. Additional research efforts are underway in the area of genomics for the identification of novel immunomodulatory genes. The company operates a wholly-owned diagnostics subsidiary, Genelabs Diagnostics Ltd., which sells diagnostic tests for infectious diseases primarily in major markets in Europe and Asia.