This article was originally published in Start Up
Polaris Group's Phase II candidate is a microbial enzyme that degrades arginine, an amino acid crucial to tumor cell metabolism and growth. Depleting arginine from the blood can control tumor growth, but normal cells retain their ability to synthesize arginine so should not be harmed by the enzyme's effects.
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Tocagen Inc. is confident that it possesses the proper technology to at last realize some of gene therapy's early promise. Instead of seeking to neuter vectors so they cannot spread, Tocagen deploys a retroviral replicating vector containing genes that let viruses enter and replicate in cancer cells. The retrovirus the company has modified for its purposes was isolated from mice, and no equivalent has been found in humans.