Sidebar: Further Information - Companies Creating Antisense Drugs

BROADENED FOCUS: Shaji George says an equal number of biologists and chemists make up Innovir Laboratories' research team.
Embracing the idea that tomorrow's drugs will not merely treat symptoms, but also attack disease-causing genes, scores of biotechnology companies are developing compounds to intervene in the cell's genetic machinery. One focus of this activity is antisense therapeutics: the use of synthetic nucleic acids designed to bind messenger RNA and sometimes DNA-the "sense" molecules of protein production-to prevent the expression of specific genes involved in AIDS, cancer, and inflammatory disease, among other disorders.

At first, researchers thought that antisense drugs would prove so specific there would be few side effects. But toxicity-related problems did arise in initial animal studies of antisense drugs in the early 1990s. Since then, companies are using these compounds cautiously. They are continuing to study new ways to make...

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