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Agritope Signs Technology Access Agreement with Salk Institute

    BEAVERTON, Ore., March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Epitope, Inc. (Nasdaq: EPTO)
today announced that it has entered into a three-year agreement with The Salk
Institute for Biological Studies which provides its Agritope agricultural
biotechnology group access to genetic technology in plants.
    The agreement will allow Agritope to evaluate each of five different
proprietary genes that have the potential to confer disease resistance,
enhanced yield, controlled flowering and enhanced gene expression.  The
agreement gives Agritope the exclusive option to license these new
technologies for application primarily to fresh fruits and vegetables.  During
the three year evaluation period, Agritope plans to genetically engineer
prototype commercial plant varieties containing these genes and to evaluate
their utility in field applications.
    "Agritope has made significant progress in developing improved varieties
of tomatoes, melons, raspberries and strawberries through application of its
patented ripening control technology.  Access to the Salk genes provides an
opportunity to leverage our ability to genetically engineer fruits and
vegetables and thereby create a pipeline of products with additional improved
characteristics," said Richard K. Bestwick, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer of
Agritope Research and Development.
    The Salk technology was developed by scientists at the Institute's Plant
Biology Laboratory in La Jolla, California, headed by Chris Lamb, Ph.D.  The
genes covered by the agreement are all derived from plants.  Two of the genes
have demonstrated increased vegetative growth in plants.  These genes could
stimulate plant growth and, therefore, increase crop yield while lowering crop
production costs.  A third gene regulates flower initiation and development in
all flowering plants.  This gene has the potential to either increase or
prevent flowering, thus allowing for controlling the number of flowers per
plant and the seasonal timing of flower formation.  The agreement also
includes a gene that is responsible for broad-based disease resistance that
has been characterized in collaboration between scientists at Salk and
scientists at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma.  This
gene could confer resistance to a range of plant pests including viruses,
fungi and bacteria.  The final gene involves a novel genetic element that
enhances gene expression in plants.
    In related developments, Agritope announced that it recently was granted a
second U.S. patent on its SAMase gene which is the core technology in
Agritope's ethylene control program.  In addition, the U.S. Patent Office also
recently issued notices of allowance of two patent applications covering
promoters which regulate expression of the SAMase gene.  Both promoters are
used in products currently under development.
    Epitope, Inc. is a biotechnology company that develops and markets medical
diagnostic products through its Epitope Medical Products group.  Its Agritope
group is focused on the development and commercialization of novel
agricultural products using plant genetic engineering and other modern
methods.  Agritope also grows, markets, sells and distributes fresh and frozen
produce.

Source: EPITOPE Inc.


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