"As Seen in GEN—Flashback" Volume 8, Number 10 November/December 1988
Researchers Pursue “Anti-Sense” Technology In Quest for Novel Drugs and Agriproducts
By Anne Simon Moffat
More flavorful fruits and vegetables, new treatments for a range of genetic diseases and a cure for AIDS are possible prizes for researchers pursuing a new technology, known as “anti-sense agents.”
“If anti-sense approaches work, they will usher in a new era of drug therapy, and a new wave of [pharmaceutical] companies,” says Dr. Douglas Melton of Harvard University and a pioneer in the field. He believes that anti-sense approaches may offer our best hope for curing AIDS.
“During the past two years, progress in anti-sense research has been asymptotically vertical,” says Michael Riordan, president of Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Foster City, CA), one of two U.S. companies dedicated to the development of anti-sense agents. The worldwide market for new products that stem from anti-sense research has been estimated to be in the range of $2 to $20 billion annually.
Anti-sense agents block gene function. It has been known for about 10 years that anti-sense mechanisms can control gene expression in bacteria. But within the past few years, it has been shown that such agents may also be manipulated in eukaryotes to inhibit the action of “bad genes”, such as those that code for an enzyme that accelerates food spoilage or those needed for virus replication.
However, no one has proven that anti-sense agents can perform in man. Still, because many human diseases can be attributed to a single deleterious gene, researchers are hopeful that anti-sense agents can be used therapeutically, to clamp down on problem genes.