By Randall Osborne

After stopping two Phase III trials of Cerestat, its ion channel blocker for treating stroke and traumatic brain injury, Cambridge NeuroScience Inc. reduced its staff by half and plans to sell some or all of its technology assets while analyzing the data further.

"The board wants us to evaluate any and all offers we can generate," said Harry Wilcox, vice president and chief financial officier of the Cambridge, Mass.-based company.

The staff cutback, reducing Cambridge's work force from 60 to 30, has already taken place, Wilcox said. A one-time charge related to the layoffs totals about $800,000.

Cerestat, a small molecule, is an N-methyl D-aspartate ion-channel blocker that prevents nerve cell death and brain damage following head injury or stroke by preventing excessive entry of calcium into those cells.

Data from more than 620 patients enrolled in the stroke trial are still being analyzed, with a final report expected in the second quarter of this year.

"There was a very large group, about 60 percent of the patients in the trial, who had significant benefit," Wilcox said. Those patients had suffered "moderate" strokes, he added.

In September 1997, Cambridge discontinued its Phase III trial in traumatic brain injury after a planned interim analysis showed insufficient evidence of positive clinical impact. Three months later, the stroke trial was ended for the same reason. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 17, 1997, p. 1.)

The company's relationship with its development partner, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, of Ingelheim, Germany, remains "very good," Wilcox said.

"They want to see the [final] outcome of the analysis before they make a decision," he said, adding that he expects Boehringer to keep the partnership if the data suggest moving ahead with Cerestat.

Cambridge's stock (NASDAQ:CNSI) closed Tuesday at $1.968, up $0.031. *