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Monday, May 14, 2007

Factor Through Goats?

A persistent question we are always asked is "What ever happened to gene therapy?" We used to write extensively about this subject when gene therapy was hot, but since the deaths of two young people in gene therapy trials unrelated to hemophilia, all gene therapy seems to have taken a slow and extremely cautious route. There instead seems to be great interest in creating new and less expensive ways to manufacture factor. We recently heard of a new biotech company in California, founded by a parent of a child with hemophilia, that is developing all therapies, which hints that these products one day will be lower in cost.

And the newswires announced this last week: GTC Biotherapeutics, a Massachusetts-based biotech company, held a webcast this morning from Monaco; the webcast will be available tomorrow through the company's website. This company "develops, produces, and commercializes therapeutic proteins through transgenic animal technology." This means literally milking animals for the desired protein that is developed through gene therapy and then expressed through the animal's milk.

Like many, I feel a bit skeptical but according to GTC, in August 2006 its recombinant form of human antithrombin was approved by the European Commission for use in patients with hereditary antithrombin deficiency undergoing surgical procedures. This was the first approval anywhere in the world of a therapeutic protein produced from a transgenic animal. GTC has developed goats that have the human antithrombin gene linked to a milk-protein promoting gene so that they express this protein in their milk.

In 2006, GTC was granted a patent in the United States through 2021 for the production of any therapeutic protein in the milk of any transgenic mammal. And GTC has established a strategic collaboration with LFB Biotechnologies of France to jointly develop recombinant human factor VIIa as a potential treatment for hemophilia inhibitor hemophilia patients. This would be a direct competitor to NovoSeven, apparently. Although the article doesn't directly state this, it implies that this recombinant FVIIa would be expressed by animals?

It bears watching, and we hope to bring more infromation about this through PEN and through HemaBlog. Watch the webcast yourself tomorrow at the GTC web site, www.gtc-bio.com.

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