UM virology institute in talks with Calif. firm on new drugs

Immune Response seeks to license potential drugs for AIDS, cancer

May 18, 1999|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

The Institute for Human Virology in Baltimore is in discussions with Immune Response Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., about licensing some of the institute's discoveries for use in developing treatments for cancer and AIDS, the institute acknowledged yesterday.

Peter P. McCain, interim president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, IHV's parent, said the institute and the company have agreed on "major terms" of an agreement, but no deal has been signed.

Immune Response shares fell $4.25 to $7.5625 yesterday, after the company announced the halt of trials for a drug to treat AIDS.

The publicly held company said it was offering restricted stock to the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, instead of a cash payment, for a licensing fee and to finance research at IHV for at least five years.

Immune Response said the working agreement with the virology institute involves licensing exclusive rights to chemokine and peptide technologies discovered by Dr. Robert Gallo, a pioneering researcher in acquired immune response deficiency, and his research team.

Chemokines are chemical messengers that summon blood cells to the sites of inflammation. In laboratory tests, chemokines have kept HIV from entering blood cells and reproducing.

The deal also involves rights to an amino acid, or peptide, known as HAF, that Gallo and his team found may have applications in blocking transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus, and boosting bone marrow growth in cancer patients.

Dennis J. Carlo, president and chief executive officer of Immune Response, said the deal, if signed, would be an "excellent fit, complementing our focus in HIV, cancer and vaccines."

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