ATDC Company with Promising Gene Therapy to Merge

An Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) member company with a promising gene therapy for treating severe cardiovascular disease will become part of a new publicly-traded life sciences company known as Autus Genetics Corportation under a merger agreement announced September 13 by San Diego-based Gen Star Therapeutics (AMEX:GNT).
The new company will focus on the VEGF-2 gene-based therapy developed by Atlanta-based Vascular Genetics, Inc. for treating cardiovascular disease for which other treatments have failed. The genetic therapy, which has shown promise in early clinical trials, helps grow new blood vessels for oxygen-deprived areas of the heart.
"Our treatment takes a heart that may not be working very efficiently and revitalizes it with the growth of new blood vessels," said Richard Otto, CEO of Vascular Genetics. "We have been able to show fairly dramatic increases in the motion of heart wall tissue that had not been functioning."
The VEGF-2 gene also holds promise for treating peripheral vascular disease, which causes patients to lose limbs due to inadequate blood circulation.
The merger must be approved by shareholders of both firms, but could be final as early as the fourth quarter of 2002. The transaction has been structured as a merger of equals.
"This is a merger of two companies with truly complementary assets and virtually no overlap," Otto explained. "With Vascular Genetics' financial restructuring and renewed focus on continuing the VEGF-2 testing for cardiovascular disease, we welcome the clinical, scientific and regulatory expertise of the GenStar team as well as their manufacturing capabilities. This is a great fit."
Otto will serve as CEO of the new company. Vascular Genetics' chief financial officer Robert T. Atwood will serve the new comapny in that same role. Dr. Robert E. Sobol, president of GenStar, will be president of the new firm.

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