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RIBOZYME PHARMACEUTICALS NAMES CEO; FORMER SMITHKLINE BEECHAM EXECUTIVE RALPH CHRISTOFFERSEN

 RIBOZYME PHARMACEUTICALS NAMES CEO;
 FORMER SMITHKLINE BEECHAM EXECUTIVE RALPH CHRISTOFFERSEN
 CLEVELAND, June 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals Inc. (RPI), a biotechnology company established to commercialize the Nobel Prize-winning genetic engineering science of ribozymes developed by Dr. Thomas R. Cech, today announced that Dr. Ralph E. (Chris) Christoffersen has joined the company as president and CEO. The appointment of Christoffersen, who had been senior vice president and director of research at SmithKline Beecham, marks a major step for RPI toward becoming an integrated pharmaceutical company and a recognized world leader in ribozyme research and drug development.
 "With his leadership, vision and knowledge of both the business and scientific sides of biotechnology, Dr. Christoffersen is the ideal individual to lead our company in pursuing the enormously promising potential of ribozymes," said Thomas A. Mann, chairman of RPI and U.S. Biochemical Corp. "His background includes expertise in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research, experience in drug development, and years of managing both start-up and established organizations. Having a leader with these qualifications will enable us to aggressively pursue our scientific and business objectives of developing and producing effective rationally-designed ribozyme-based drugs for traditional and gene therapies."
 At SmithKline Beecham, Christoffersen was senior vice president in charge of U.S.-based research and worldwide biopharmaceutical research and development. During his three-year tenure there, significant numbers of novel drugs using pioneering therapeutic approaches were introduced into development, including 10 in the past two years. Also under his leadership, the company implemented many new technologies and established a significant number of key alliances. Prior to joining SmithKline Beecham, Christoffersen was vice president, discovery research at The Upjohn Co., where he was responsible for creating its biotechnology program and for obtaining U.S. regulatory approval for the first Upjohn biotechnology product within 4 years of initiating activities. Before entering private industry, Christoffersen held positions as president of Colorado State University and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Kansas.
 "Chris Christoffersen understands the challenges that lie ahead in unlocking the tremendous benefits that we believe ribozymes offer," said Thomas Cech, Ph.D., chairman of RPI's scientific advisory board, whose Nobel-prize winning work in the discovery and development of ribozymes forms the basis of the company. "It's our collective goal that ribozymes benefit humanity and I believe that Chris will make swift and decisive contributions toward turning that goal into a reality."
 Christoffersen's initial duties will include managing RPI's relocation from Cleveland to Boulder, Colo., where Cech's laboratory and one of the most distinguished groups of RNA scientists are located at the University of Colorado. He will also lead the search for a chief scientific officer and manage recruiting efforts to increase the current 20-person scientific staff to as many as 60 persons over the next 12 to 18 months. A further key role will be to identify and establish alliances and strategic partnerships with appropriate companies to develop specific applications in therapeutics, diagnostics and agriculture.
 Ribozymes are small RNA molecules which are able to modify a cell's gene expression by enzymatically cleaving (cutting) RNA strands at specific nucleotide sequences. One obvious application of ribozyme technology would be as a therapeutic agent to selectively target and cleave specific viral RNA to interrupt protein synthesis, and thus replication.
 The technology, for which RPI holds several broad patents, has broad commercial application potential in the human therapeutic, diagnostic, agricultural and veterinary fields. Current research programs at RPI include ribozymes targeted at herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, the human immunodeficiency virus (AIDS), cytomegalovirus and various forms of cancer.
 RPI, a biotechnology company focused on commercializing the ribozyme technology developed by Cech was recently organized by U.S. Biochemical Corp. and four venture capital firms, Morgenthaler Ventures, Venrock Associates, CW Group and Advent International, in an initial $6 million round of financing. The company is currently headquartered in Cleveland, but will be moving to Boulder, within the next few months.
 -0- 6/3/92 R
 NOTE: Christoffersen is available for telephone interviews on June 3, 1992. Contact Jim Helbig of Regis McKenna, 214-490-9974. A black and white photograph of Christoffersen is available upon request. Contact Miriam Hyman of Regis McKenna, 415-354-4409.
 /CONTACT: Dale Schwartz of RPI, 216-591-0770; Miriam Hyman, 415-354-4409; or Jim Helbig, 214-490-9974, both of Regis McKenna for RPI/ CO: Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals Inc. ST: Ohio, Colorado IN: MTC SU: PER


MC-MM -- SJ002 -- 6797 06/03/92 18:25 EDT
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Date:Jun 3, 1992
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