This excerpt taken from the SGMO 10-K filed Mar 16, 2006.
Company Overview and Business Strategy
Sangamo BioSciences is developing a new class of human therapeutics. We are a leader in the research, development, and commercialization of DNA-binding proteins for the therapeutic regulation and modification of disease-related genes. Our proprietary technology platform is based on the engineering of a naturally occurring class of proteins referred to as zinc finger DNA-binding proteins (ZFPs). We believe that ZFPs can be targeted to virtually any gene in the human genome or the genome of any other organism. Our scientists use engineered ZFPs to make ZFP transcription factors, or ZFP TFsTM, which are proteins that bind to DNA and are able to turn genes on or off (see Figure A). Additionally, ZFPs may be engineered to create zinc finger nucleases, or ZFNsTM. Engineered ZFNs can be used to cut genomic DNA at a pre-selected sequence location, facilitating either ZFN-mediated correction of genes that contain disease-causing mutations, or disruption of genes that facilitate or are responsible for disease pathology.
The pharmaceutical industry has invested billions of dollars to discover and validate new drug targets over the last decade. While there have been several notable successes, in many cases it has proven difficult to identify small-molecule drugs, monoclonal antibodies or recombinant proteins that can therapeutically modulate these targets in man. We believe that our ZFP technology platform constitutes a new therapeutic approach enabling the regulation or modification of therapeutically generated gene targets that have proven intractable to conventional methods of drug discovery. By developing ZFP TherapeuticTM products based on regulation or modification of such targets at the DNA level, Sangamo is focused on establishing a new therapeutic product development technology platform for a new class of drugs. In November 2005, we completed the enrollment and treatment of the first Phase 1 clinical trial of a ZFP Therapeutic (SB-509) in patients with diabetic neuropathy and we plan to initiate a Phase 2 trial of SB-509 in 2006. In addition, one of our corporate partners, Edwards Lifesciences (Edwards), has initiated two Phase 1 clinical studies to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of a proprietary Sangamo ZFP Therapeutic, EW-A-401, for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Sangamo has also initiated preclinical animal studies of ZFP Therapeutics in congestive heart failure, nerve regeneration, age-related macular degeneration and neuropathic pain. In addition, we have research-stage programs in HIV, X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (X-linked SCID), hemophilia and hemoglobinopathies, cancer and cancer immunotherapy.
While we intend to invest the majority of our financial and scientific resources in the human therapeutic applications of our ZFP technology, we believe the potential commercial applications of ZFPs are broad-based and range from human therapeutics and drug discovery to pharmaceutical protein production and the engineering of commercial crop plants. In October 2005, we announced a Research License and Commercial Option Agreement with Dow AgroSciences, LLC (DAS), a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Dow Chemical Corporation. Under the agreement, Sangamo is providing DAS with access to Sangamos ZFP technology and the exclusive right to use it to modify the genomes or alter the nucleic acid or protein expression of plant cells, plants, or plant cell cultures. We have retained rights to use plants or plant-derived products to deliver ZFP transcription factors or nucleases into human or animals for diagnostic, therapeutic, or prophylactic purposes. In addition, we seek to capitalize on the ZFP platform by facilitating the sale or licensing of ZFP TFs or ZFNs to companies working in other fields including protein production and drug discovery. For instance, Sangamo is supplying its pharmaceutical partners Medarex Inc. and, recently, Pfizer Inc, Novo Nordisk, Novartis and Amgen with ZFP engineered cells for the enhanced production of therapeutic proteins, an advance that could substantially increase the efficiency of pharmaceutical protein production. Sangamo has also provided companies such as LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company, with ZFP TFs to aid in the development of new therapeutic treatments for diabetes in the emerging field of regenerative medicine.
We have amassed a substantial intellectual property position in the design, selection, composition, and use of engineered ZFPs to support all of these commercial activities. We either own outright or have licensed the commercial rights to approximately 107 patents issued in the United States and foreign national jurisdictions, and we have 178 patent applications pending worldwide. We continue to license and file new patent applications that
strengthen our core and accessory patent portfolio. We believe that our proprietary position will protect our ability to research, develop, and commercialize products and services based on ZFP technology across our chosen applications.
Over the last four years, we have increasingly focused our company on ZFP Therapeutic product development and have recruited experienced scientists and managers with substantial product development experience. We are also building our capabilities in preclinical development, regulatory affairs and clinical research and are applying these capabilities across our product development programs.
DNA is present in all cells except mature erythrocytes, and encodes the inherited characteristics of all living organisms. A cells DNA is organized in chromosomes as thousands of individual units called genes. Genes encode proteins, which are assembled through the process of transcription whereby DNA is transcribed into ribonucleic acid (RNA) and, subsequently, translation whereby RNA is translated into protein. DNA, RNA, and proteins comprise many of the targets for pharmaceutical drug discovery and therapeutic intervention at the molecular level.
The human body is composed of specialized cells that perform different functions and are thus organized into tissues and organs. All somatic cells in an individuals body contain the same set of genes. However, only a fraction of these genes are turned on, or expressed, in an individual human cell at any given time. Genes are regulated, i.e. turned on or turned off, in response to a wide variety of stimuli and developmental signals. Distinct sets of genes are expressed in different cell types. It is this pattern of gene expression that determines the structure, biological function, and health of all cells, tissues, and organisms. The aberrant expression of certain genes can lead to disease.
Transcription factors are proteins that bind to DNA and regulate gene expression. A transcription factor recognizes and binds to a specific DNA sequence within or near a particular gene and causes that gene to be activated or repressed. In higher organisms, transcription factors typically comprise two principal domains: the first is a DNA-binding domain, which recognizes a target DNA sequence and thereby directs the transcription factor to the proper chromosomal location; the second is a functional domain that causes the target gene to be activated or repressed (see Figure A). The two-component structure of our engineered ZFP TFs is modeled on this naturally occurring structure of transcription factors in all higher organisms.