National Editor

Aiming to apply its resources more fully to the development of oncology and cardiovascular products, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. ended its long-standing collaboration with 3-Dimensional Pharmaceuticals Inc. for enzyme inhibitors of the cascade system.

"It's been active," said Michael Darwin, chief financial officer of Birmingham, Ala.-based BioCryst. "Both companies have been doing their things."

The exact nature of those things, along with the financial terms of the October 1996 arrangement, were not disclosed, although the companies said at the time of the signing that their goal was to develop small-molecule inhibitors of serine proteases to treat inflammatory diseases. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 25, 1996.)

Specifically, 3-Dimensional's DirectedDiversity technology was to discover compounds directed against the serine proteases identified by BioCryst.

Ending the deal "mostly frees up human capital, people," Darwin told BioWorld Today, noting that the firm operates with a staff of about 45.

BioCryst has begun enrollment in four Phase I trials at 11 cancer centers with its lead product candidate BCX-1777 for patients with T-cell malignancies, hematologic malignancies and other refractory cancers.

BCX-1777 is a purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) inhibitor for the treatment of T-cell mediated disorders.

"They're open-label trials, so we're gathering data as we go along," Darwin said, adding that the company hopes to have enough data at the end of the year to enter Phase II in 2004.

"Our primary focus is in T-cell malignancies," he said, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. "We've always focused on the area of PNP inhibition."

The next drug candidate in line is BCX-3607, which BioCryst describes as a potent and selective inhibitor of the active site of the tissue factor/Factor VIIa complex, the starting point for blood clotting, which also is believed to be a major activation site for the inflammatory processes that accompany various cardiovascular diseases. The company hopes to test BCX-3607 for cardiovascular and oncology indications.

Just more than a year ago, BioCryst stopped development of its then-lead candidate, peramivir, on poor preliminary data from a Phase III influenza study. It followed that move with a staff reduction of 43 percent. (See BioWorld Today, June 26, 2002, and July 12, 2002.)

Exton, Pa.-based 3-Dimensional has fared better, its stock leaping 86.1 percent in January on the day it disclosed a planned merger with New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson, which completed the $88 million buyout in March. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 17, 2003.)

BioCryst's stock (NASDAQ:BCRX) rose a cent Wednesday to close at $4.71.