SYDNEY, Australia -- Peptech Ltd. has set its sights on human applications for technology that affects mammalian reproductive systems, which it is now developing with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.

Over the Christmas-New Year break, Peptech announced to the Australian stock market that New York-based Pfizer, perhaps best known for the impotency product Viagra, would fund an initial 12-month development program for the company's third-generation, long-acting implant for the reversible sterilization of companion animals (mainly dogs).

The implant involves a slow-release lipid delivery system combined with an engineered version of the well-known ontopeptide family of compounds, which effectively sterilizes the animals for long periods. The dog can be returned to normal by removal of the implant.

No financial details of the deal with Pfizer were disclosed, except that Peptide will receive an up-front payment and Pfizer has indicated that it will be seeking global rights to sell nominated veterinary products if various research milestones are achieved.

The stock exchange announcement also states that information collected from various trials indicates the technology can be adapted for use in humans, notably in the treatment of prostate and breast cancer, as well as gynecological disease and infertility.

"Much of the data produced in the Pfizer research program would be available to the company for the development of a range of human pharmaceuticals," the firm said. Peptech has retained the full rights to any human applications it develops as a result of its research programs.

"The company intends to undertake animal toxicity studies of the long-acting implant in the first half of 1999, with the aim of being able to undertake human Phase I clinical trails in the second half of 1999," Peptech said.

Peptech's managing director, Michael Cohen, told BioWorld International the initial research work aims to develop a manufacturing process for the device and the drug reliable enough to satisfy FDA requirements.

He said the same treatment can have a range of effects on the mammalian reproductive system, including both shutting down the system and boosting it, with a different version of the same technology being used to increase the fertility rate of horses. That product, known as Ovuplant, has already won FDA approval.

The announcement by Peptech, which has operations in Australia, the U.K. and Denmark, greatly boosted the company's share price. After starting the year at A$0.17 (US$0.105), Peptech's shares were at A$0.355 in July, with the latest announcement boosting them by more than A$0.20 to a peak of A$0.98. In thin trading over the holiday break, Peptech's shares settled back to between A$0.85 and A$0.89. *

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