BIOTECH LARGESS | March 1, 2004 Issue - Vol. 82 Issue 9 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 9 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: March 1, 2004

BIOTECH LARGESS

Rohm and Haas donates five-year-old RheoGene to Pitt Medical Center
Department: Business
EVER HIGHER
The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is a 42-story skyscraper conceived as a monument to education.
Credit: UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH PHOTO
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EVER HIGHER
The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is a 42-story skyscraper conceived as a monument to education.
Credit: UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH PHOTO

In an unusual donation, Rohm and Haas has given away an entire company, RheoGene, a developer of technology for regulating therapeutic gene expression, to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Neither Rohm and Haas nor UPMC will state a value for the tax-deductible gift, which includes intellectual property, equipment, compounds, biological materials, research and commercial agreements, and licenses consolidated in RheoGene, based in suburban Philadelphia. People, of course, cannot be donated, but the firm's 21 employees agreed to participate in the transaction.

UPMC scientists are happy with the deal. For instance, Ronald B. Heberman, director of UPMC's Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, says RheoGene's technology "has the potential to link the functions of genes, proteins, and complex cellular targets" to new therapies for many diseases.

RheoGene's technology grew out of Rohm and Haas's agricultural chemicals research. But Rohm and Haas sold its agchem business to Dow Chemical in 2001. Though it retained RheoGene, Rohm and Haas ultimately decided to exit biotechnology and ended support of RheoGene in December 2002.

A number of employees' jobs were terminated, but Lorraine Keller, RheoGene's vice president of marketing, says a core group of scientists and senior managers remained. RheoGene was working on several projects with scientists at UPMC's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, so Tom Tillet, the small company's CEO, managed to keep the firm going with grants from UPMC between the end of 2002 and May 2003.

By then, Tillet had all the arrangements in place for Rohm and Haas to donate RheoGene to UPMC. Delaying completion of the deal were last-minute financial arrangements and Pennsylvania state government approvals. RheoGene plans to open a small clinical lab in Pittsburgh to work more closely with UPMC scientists.

 
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