Key Interaction for Interferon Resistance in Hepatitis C Virus
HAYWARD, Calif -- April 14, 1997
RiboGene, Inc. today announced that in a study in the April
14,1997 issue of Virology, a team of researchers led by Dr. Michael
Katze at the University of Washington discovered that the Hepatitis
C virus (HCV) nonstructural 5A (NS5A) protein may contribute to the
interferon-resistant phenotype of HCV.
Prior to the current report, the mechanism of HCV resistance to
interferon therapy was unknown. Katze, a member of the company's
Scientific Advisory Board showed that NS5A protein represses the
action of PKR, a protein activated by interferon that shuts down
viral protein synthesis thereby inhibiting replication of the
Hepatitis C virus.
Based on the findings, RiboGene, with its expertise in high
throughput screening and translational control of gene expression,
has established a research program based on this viral target that
will seek to identify new, small molecule therapeutics effective
against the Hepatitis C virus.
Background on Hepatitis C virus
HCV, an RNA virus that targets the liver, is responsible for
150,000 to 250,000 new cases of hepatitis each year in the U.S. The
virus, which typically has a six to nine-month incubation period,
presents symptoms such as: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, dark
urine, and jaundice; and if left untreated, leads to liver cancer
According to a recent report by a committee sponsored by the
National Institutes of Health, nearly four million individuals in
the U.S. are infected with HCV. The report also noted that
treatment of the disease with current drugs is disappointing and
estimated that the number of U.S. deaths caused by HCV will triple
in the next 10-20 years.
"This discovery explains the molecular mechanisms for interferon
resistance, and points the way to a potential new target for
therapeutic drugs to treat Hepatitis C," said the principal
investigator, Katze, UW professor of microbiology and associate
director of the UW's Regional Primate Research Center.
"The licensing agreement with the University of Washington,
allows us to apply RiboGene's assay design expertise, which will
result in a screening system capable of identifying highly
selective and potent HCV therapies," stated Laura S. Lehman, Ph.D.,
vice president of Research for RiboGene.
RiboGene and the University of Washington have received a notice
of allowance on certain of its patents surrounding this technology,
and have other patents pending. Virology is a scientific journal
published by Academic Press, RiboGene, Inc. is a privately held
biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of
new classes of compounds that act through the translational control
of gene expression.
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