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MICROPROBE AWARDED SBIR GRANT AIMED AT ANTIGENE(TM) DRUG DELIVERY

MICROPROBE AWARDED SBIR GRANT AIMED AT ANTIGENE(TM) DRUG DELIVERY
 Gene-blocking Drug Against Hepatitis B
 GARDEN GROVE, Calif., April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- MicroProbe Corp., based here, today announced that its therapeutics division was awarded a $500,000 Phase-II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a drug-delivery system aimed at increasing the cellular uptake and potency of its Antigene(TM) drugs against hepatitis B and other life-threatening viruses.
 According to Harvey J. Hoyt, M.D., president and chief operating officer of MicroProbe Therapeutics, located in Bothell, Wash., the grant will aid the development of a broadly applicable antiviral drug- delivery system, initially directed at the hepatitis B virus which infects liver cells.
 "The major focus of our program is to develop drugs that target the genetic mechanism of a virus, thereby inhibiting or permanently blocking its ability to replicate inside infected cells," said Dr. Hoyt. "We believe MicroProbe's approach is the next technological step in the evolution of antisense to antigene therapy." Antigene(TM) Drugs
 Comprised of synthetic subunits of DNA, MicroProbe's Antigene drugs are designed to recognize and bind to a specific sequence of double-stranded DNA. The drug would permanently block viral replication by "cross-linking" to both strands of viral DNA infecting the host cell's nucleus. Key objectives of MicroProbe's program are to increase the transport of Antigene drugs across an infected cell's outer membrane and into the nucleus where viral replication occurs, and to improve their potency by protecting them from the degrading effects of enzymes found within cells and blood. MicroProbe's Technology
 MicroProbe's Antigene drug technology uses synthetic DNA subunits, or "oligonucleotide probes," designed to bind selectively to viral DNA and not that of the host cell. Targeting the genetic code at its source, the advantage of Antigene drugs is that they can be made to permanently block the activity of a particular gene. Because less of the drug would be required, they would have fewer side effects and be less costly.
 The "antisense" approach to blocking gene expression uses synthetic DNA-like agents directed at messenger RNA, a molecule that directs protein synthesis. A disadvantage of this approach is that the RNA -- and protein synthesis -- may only be inhibited temporarily. Because the source code -- DNA -- is largely left intact, it can continue to encode the RNA and the subsequent production of protein.
 This award brings the total federal support for MicroProbe's research and development programs to more than $5.7 million. Drug- discovery technology has been the subject of 15 grants, with 12 more for its DNA-probe diagnostics technology. Other awards include funding for development of potential antiviral, anitcancer and antiparasitic drugs, permanent gene inactivation and a system for evaluating anti-HIV oligonucleotides.
 Founded in 1985, MicroProbe Corp. is commercializing synthetic DNA probes for the rapid detection and identification of multiple pathogens, and the treatment of certain infectious diseases and cancers. The privately held company operates three division -- a diagnostics and a therapeutics division located together in Bothell, and an OEM systems division operating as Source Scientific Systems in Garden Grove.
 -0- 4/15/92
 /CONTACT: Dr. Harvey J. Hoyt of MicroProbe, 206-485-8566; or Charles Versaggi of Versaggi & Associates, 408-358-4162, for MicroProbe/ CO: MicroProbe Corp. ST: California; Washington IN: MTC SU:


DG -- SJ001 -- 8491 04/15/92 08:31 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 15, 1992
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