Wednesday, Jun 4, 1980

Genentech Announces Successful Production and Preliminary Biological Tests For Fibroblast and Leukocyte Interferon

South San Francisco, Calif. -- June 4, 1980 --

Genentech, Inc. of South San Francisco, California, has successfully produced of two types of human interferons, fibroblast and leukocyte, through recombinant DNA technology. These interferons have been reported as potential antitumor and antiviral agents. Collaboration on this project was undertaken with Hoffman-LaRoche.

Scientists of both companies have been working together for over a year in the pursuit of large-scale commercial production of pure interferon by means of recombinant DNA techniques. Roche, a major research-oriented health care company, has been a pioneer in the research and purification of interferon for more than a decade. In the latter part of 1978, scientists at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology were the first to succeed in producing pure interferon from human leukocytes in amounts sufficient for physical and chemical analysis.

Genentech was founded in 1976 to develop commercial applications of recombinant DNA technology. In its brief history, it has become the leading producer of human hormones using this technology and has already engineered microorganisms to produce seven hormones. The Hoffman-La Roche/Genentech production of both fibroblast and leukocyte interferons through recombinant DNA techniques now makes it possible to produce large amounts of these interferon by 1981 to initiate clinical trials to assess and document the substances' safety and efficacy in a variety of viral and tumor situations.

Preliminary data from a limited trial in animals indicated that interferon derived from recombinant organisms has biological activity similar to that of human leukocyte interferon. Three animals per group received interferon before and after an encephalomyocarditis (EMC) virus challenge. Those receiving interferon derived from leukocytes or recombinant organisms survived the observation period, while control animals died. This study suggests that glycosalation of interferon is not essential for in vivo activities. However, further studies must be performed before the clinical therapeutic potential of this material can be evaluated.

At this time it is not possible to predict with certainty when these interferons will be available for wide scale research by the medical community. However, the significant developments which emerge from the collaborative studies on interferon by Roche and Genentech will be reported in appropriate scientific publications and forums.

The Genentech scientific team is headed by Dr. David Goeddel and the Hoffman-La Roche team by Dr. Sidney Pestka.

Interferon, a naturally occurring protein, is mad in infinitesimal amounts by human cells upon viral infection. Scientists have previously produced interferon in the laboratory by mimicking the process by which it is naturally produced in the body in cell culture. Crude interferon obtained from cell culture has been used in preliminary limited clinical trials. Results obtained from such trials suggest that interferon may have antiviral and antitumor activity. However, clinical trials with materials produced by recombinant DNA will be required to determine efficacy.

There are several kinds of interferon which are named according to the type of cells that produce them naturally. Fibroblast interferon is produced by fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) and leukocyte interferon by white blood cells. These types of interferons are different chemically, and scientists are seeking to identify the diseases most effectively treated by each type of interferon.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the carrier of all genetic information in all living organisms, is present in every living cell. Recombinant DNA research involves the combination of DNA from two genetically different organisms. This new research technique provides an opportunity for major advances in genetic studies which may enable scientists to prevent and combat disease more effectively.

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