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Infection Fighting Protein Found

July 9, 1999

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) _ Scientists at a biotechnology company say they have discovered the human protein that triggers production of one of the body’s most important cells, one that fights infection and disease.

Human Genome Sciences Inc. says the newly identified protein B lymphocyte stimulant, or BLyS, could have many uses. These include boosting immune systems weakened by chemotherapy, organ transplant drugs or diseases such as AIDS, leukemia and lymphomas.

The findings were published today in the journal Science.

The company announced Thursday it is developing an experimental drug based on the discovery and hopes to see it tested in humans this year. It usually takes five to eight years of human testing before the FDA considers approving an experimental drug.

The scientists say the protein is responsible for triggering production of B cells, a type of white blood cell. These immune system cells generate important antibodies that attack bacteria, viruses and fungi.

One of the country’s leading immune system experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hailed the discovery as an example of deciphering human genes to find keys to how the body responds to disease.

``I look on this as being important because it demonstrates how incredibly powerful some of these biotech companies are becoming in doing things that would have seemed impossible a few years ago,″ Fauci said today in the The (Baltimore) Sun.

At least a dozen companies are trying to decipher information about the body’s 80,000 to 100,000 genes in an effort to prevent diseases.

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