PARIS The U.S. Patent Office has granted DrugAbuse Sciences (DAS) a patent for its process for producing a specific cocaine antibody, designated COC-AB. A patent is also pending in Europe under the mutual-recognition procedure.

DAS, of Paris and San Francisco, is developing various medicines for the treatment of drug addiction. The cocaine antibody works by attracting the active principals of cocaine and blocking them in the blood, thus preventing their dissemination in the organism. It is designed for use in hospital emergency units and drug addiction centers, and in particular will help prevent the cardiovascular complications that are responsible for deaths due to drug overdoses.

Clinical trials of COC-AB are due to begin next year, and the company hopes to have the product on the market by 2001 or 2002. The process was developed by a DAS research team in Paris, led by Jean-Michel Scherrman, who, in addition to being head of a toxicology research laboratory at the Fernand Widal Hospital, in Paris, and professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Paris V, is co-chairman of DAS¿s Scientific and Medical Council. He has been with the company since it was established, a little over two years ago.

The cocaine antibody is one of two products derived from biotechnology for which DAS raised FFr18 million (US$3.16 million) in a private offering in mid-1997 to finance preclinical and clinical trials. The other product is a new injectable form of an existing medicine for the disintoxication of opiate drug addicts and alcoholics. The majority of the funds was provided by three French venture capitalists, and since then the company has also received a research grant of FFr16 million from the French Ministry of Research and Technology. (See BioWorld International, June 4, 1997, p. 1.)

According to the president of DAS in France, Maryvonne Hiance, the company plans to launch an initial public offering either on Nasdaq or in Europe in the second half of 1999, assuming it can point to some positive clinical trial results by then.