LONDON Stanford Rook Ltd. announced last week it has cast off the names of its founders, John Stanford and Graham Rook, and become SR Pharma, reflecting its transition from a research to a development company.

Thomas Lang, the company¿s director of business development, told BioWorld International, ¿Stanford Rook Ltd.¿ didn¿t say anything about what we do. The company has changed a great deal since it was set up in 1992 to investigate the use of SRL 172 in the treatment of TB [tuberculosis] and took the names of the founding scientists. It is now a biopharmaceutical development company specializing in cancer and allergy.¿

As if to emphasize this, London-based SR Pharma also said it has begun recruitment of a 400-patient Phase III trial to evaluate the use of SRL 172 in late-stage lung cancer in combination with established chemotherapy. Lang said it will be two to two-and-a-half years before the study is complete, with interim results expected in 15 months. The 30-center, double-blind study follows an earlier, single-center Phase II study in which mean survival was extended.

Need To Move Forward¿ In Asthma

During the summer, the company also began a 60-patient Phase II trial in renal cell cancer in France and the U.K. to investigate the effectiveness of SRL 172 monotherapy in patients who have had the affected kidney removed.

In addition, results of a pilot study of the use of SRL 172 in patients with malignant melanoma are due to be published shortly. ¿Although this was not a controlled study, an independent analysis showed a trend to improved survival, particularly in the subgroup which showed an immunological response to SRL 172, and we are now looking for partners,¿ said Lang.

SRL 172 is a killed suspension of a strain of the soil microbe Mycobacterium vaccae, identified by John Stanford as the likely cause of local resistance to TB and other infections in Uganda. The company¿s efforts to develop the compound in the treatment of TB were suspended at the beginning of this year following the failure of a large-scale trial in South Africa. A 1,200-patient trial in Zambia and Malawi funded by the U.K. government and due to report at the end of 1999 may revive development efforts in this indication.

At the end of last month, SR Pharma released financial results for the six months ended June 30, showing a loss of #735,505, down from #913,467 for the same period of 1997. There was #4.2 million in cash, compared to #5.5 million as of June 30, 1997. ¿In financial terms, we can keep going for a couple of years without raising more money,¿ Lang said. However, the company said it is ¿in advanced licensing discussions with several pharmaceutical companies.¿

Lang said these discussions ¿are in a number of areas, but the greatest need is to move forward in asthma.¿ Recruitment to a placebo-controlled Phase I/II trial in that indication will be completed by the end of the year, with preliminary results expected during the second quarter of 1999. SR Pharma cannot afford to take the project further forward now.