New Company Formed Through Licensing Of Cardiac-Hypertrophy Technology From Texas Institutions

November 18, 1998

DALLAS - November 18, 1998 - ManTex Biotech Inc., a company based on discoveries concerning enlargement of the heart by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, today announced joint licensing of the technologies with the two medical institutions.

"We have made exciting progress toward understanding cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure," said Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology and oncology at UT Southwestern and a world-renowned heart researcher. "In particular, the discovery of a calcium-signaling system that controls cardiac enlargement and the development of genetically engineered mice that mimic human heart disease, represent powerful new approaches for drug discovery. These approaches, which will be the foundation of ManTex Biotech, should lead to the rapid development of new strategies for treatment of heart disease."

Cardiac hypertrophy, which involves enlargement of the heart, is the organ's natural response to stress, including that from hypertension or heart attacks. Although initially beneficial, the enlargement eventually weakens the heart, causing it to behave like spent elastic.

"These are the first really good genetic models that target cardiac enzymes and appear to constitute the master switch in the process of cardiac hypertrophy," said Dr. Stephen Grant, director of UNT Health Science Center's cardiac and vascular molecular genetics laboratory. "We found that if this switch is left on, hearts enlarge, dramatically increasing the potential for heart failure."

The discoveries received international attention when presented in the April 17, 1998 issue of Cell. The cover article reported that two existing drugs, cyclosporine A and FK 506, could prevent hypertrophy in mice by targeting the enzyme calcineurin. At last week's American Heart Association meeting in Dallas, Olson presented additional licensed discoveries that further elucidate the molecular signals of heart enlargement. Independent sources have predicted that this technology, though in a very early stage of development, could lead to blockbuster drugs to short-circuit the disorder and prevent heart failure.

Dr. Albert Friesen, an experienced Canadian biotechnology executive, founded ManTex to develop such therapies based on the drug targets and models licensed from UT Southwestern and the University of North Texas Health Science Center. With continued involvement of the researchers, ManTex plans development of an aggressive drug-discovery program.

"This technology has already attracted considerable interest from leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies, so I believe that we will be able to build ManTex into the leading biotech company in cardiac therapy," Friesen said.

Dr. Dennis K. Stone, vice president for technology development at UT Southwestern, said formation of ManTex represents the new direction of biotechnology development in Dallas. "We are proud to participate in launching ManTex Biotech," Stone said. "The firm's founding technology will serve as a benchmark for additional biotechnology companies that will be formed as an outgrowth of research at UT Southwestern Medical Center."

UNT Health Science Center, Fort Worth, research and biotechnology dean Dr. Robert Gracy, said joint ventures such as ManTex Biotech's partnership with the two institutions will be a model for biotechnology advances in the next millennium. "The joining of these academic institutions with the biotechnology industry makes good scientific and economic sense," he said.
-end-


UT Southwestern Medical Center

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