Immunologist Steven D. Marlin sits in a plush office at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in Ridgefield, Conn., joking with two of his collaborators, Vincent J. Merluzzi and Donald E. Staunton. The three are recalling the serendipitous events that linked independent research projects and spurred the development of a genetically engineered human protein that prevents major cold viruses from infecting cells in vitro.

Marlin and Merluzzi, working in collaboration with investigators at the Ernst Boehringer Institute in Vienna and Staunton at the Harvard University-affiliated Center for Blood Research in Boston, were the first to engineer a soluble form of the intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) - a protein found in cell membranes that many cold viruses use as a receptor to infect cells. Through their combined efforts, these researchers found that soluble ICAM-1, when added to cell cultures in sufficient concentrations, acts as a decoy to bind and immobilize the cold virus....

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