Pubdate: Mon, 03 Mar 2003
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2003 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Keith Lawrence


"The devil's weed" will join the fight against "angel dust." But this time, 
the devil's the good guy.

Large Scale Biology Corp., a California firm with biomanufacturing 
facilities in Owensboro, has signed an agreement with the University of 
Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock to use Daviess County tobacco 
to produce a commercial grade intervention therapy for phencyclidine.

Phencyclidine is better known as "angel dust" or PCP. Opponents once 
labeled tobacco "the devil's weed."

Michael Owens, director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies at 
the Arkansas university, said Large Scale had been selected to produce a 
potentially therapeutic antibody for PCP.

"All our biomanufacturing takes place in Owensboro," Daniel J. Moriarty, 
Large Scale's vice president for corporate affairs, said Friday.

But he said it was too soon to say when production would begin here or how 
much of the antibody would be produced once full production begins.

"The collaborators will now begin the technical planning involved for the 
biomanufacturing," Moriarty said. "Right now, I believe the news is that 
the work of the Arkansas researchers is so promising that they have 
selected LSBC to enable them to move forward, beginning the process of 
developing an affordable drug that can someday be given to humans who might 
die without it."

John D. Fowler, Large Scale president, called the collaboration "a major 
step in addressing a particularly important aspect of the national crisis 
of drug abuse -- the affordable development of effective therapeutics that 
our society can apply to a monumental public health problem."

He added, "While this collaboration contributes to our corporate financial 
and strategic objectives, we also share the noble goal of Dr. Owens and his 
UAMS colleagues of saving and changing lives."

The university news release says: "Under funding from the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, preclinical work in animals by Dr. Owens' research 
team at UAMS has demonstrated that their medication may be a useful therapy 
for PCP abusers.

"In animal models, their long-acting monoclonal antibody (Mab) medication 
selectively binds to PCP in the blood stream and then significantly reduces 
harmful effects."

PCP was developed after World War I as a surgical anesthetic. It was later 
found to have too many side effects for safe use and was shelved until the 
1960s, when it began being marketed as an animal tranquilizer. Large 
Scale's pharmaceutical products are grown inside tobacco plants.

Once the plants are mature, the leaves are taken to the company's 
biomanufacturing facility at MidAmerica Airpark, ground by machinery to 
rupture the cells and release the product in a liquid that runs through 
more than two miles of pipes into huge tanks for further processing.

The company says it can process 6,000 pounds of tobacco an hour and 20 
gallons of pharmaceuticals a minute.

Large Scale is already conducting clinical trials on a vaccine for 
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and is expanding its Owensboro production to include 
vaccines for AIDS and cervical cancer, enzymes to fight plant disease and a 
protein to protect human tissue against damage from chemotherapy.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom