Enzo Biochem Inc. has been one of the mystery companies of biotech, seemingly hitting the radar screen only for earnings reports and patent litigation. In a recent conversation with BioCentury, the company presented a more rounded picture of its structure and strategy.

ENZ is organized as three independent subsidiaries: diagnostics, therapeutics and a clinical laboratory. Each has its own strategy, under a holding company. The diagnostics division was the basis for the formation of ENZ in 1976. While other companies were focusing on DNA as a manufacturing tool in the 1970s, ENZ was focused on recombinant DNA as an informational tool, said Barry Weiner, executive vice president.

"Our focus gave rise to DNA as a diagnostic tool," Weiner said. "It was a long time coming, but we're at last seeing DNA emerge as a diagnostic which allows physicians a real-time diagnosis, doing away with cultures. Compared to existing technology, it's cost-efficient, and you can identify factors that previously weren't identifiable - e.g., you can identify a bacterial organism and at the same time identify antibiotic resistance."

HIV probe

The company's HIV diagnostic detects the presence of DNA in the cell. Because the test is picking up DNA and not antigens or antibodies, it's detecting virus six months before the existing antigen immunoassay, Weiner said. The test is marketed by Boehringer Mannheim and other distributors to the research community