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Cancer drugs industry hope for university.

Astonishing developments in cancer treatment in Birmingham could stimulate a high-tech drugs industry.

Already, 50 scientists are engaged in a university-backed business to produce genetically-engineered drugs for the next century.

The company, Cobra Therapeutics, is based at Keele University business park and is producing some of the gene therapy treatments that are about to be tested on cancer patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

It was formed out of a pioneering business, Therexys, set up by a Keele scientist to develop gene therapies made without viruses.

Prof David Kerr, professor of cancer studies at Birmingham University, said: "We needed a factory to make our new treatment.

"We are hoping it will lead to wealth and job creation for the whole region. There is no major pharmaceutical industry in the West Midlands and everybody is keen to start one off.

"Birmingham University has become a shareholder and we have assigned intellectual rights to the company. We hope it will float on the stockmarket in the next two years."

The cancer therapy being manufactured at Keele involves creating altered and neutralised viruses which will target cancer cells.

Patients will be injected with a drug which is harmless until it reacts with the viruses within the cancer cells.

Doctors hope this will enable them to track down and destroy stray cancer cells with minimal side effects.

Cobra is not however involved in a second treatment, a cancer vaccine based on the cowpox virus.

The vaccine has been developed by scientists in Washington DC and is to be tested in Birmingham.

It is based on the first vaccine, the cowpox virus, which enabled the world to rid itself of smallpox.

The vaccine was discovered in Gloucestershire in 1796 by Dr Edward Jenner and smallpox claimed its last victim, Janet Parker, at Birmingham University in 1978.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 22, 1998
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