DUBLIN, Ireland — Elan Corp. has reported successful Phase II studies of its humanized monoclonal antibody Antegren, which has application in multiple sclerosis (MS) and Crohn's disease.

In the U.K., 70 MS patients received either Antegren or placebo in a double-blind trial conducted at eight medical centers. According to an Elan statement, those treated with Antegren displayed a "significant reduction" in new brain lesions, as measured by magnetic resonance imaging, compared with placebo-treated patients, over a 12-week evaluation period.

Antegren binds an integrin molecule expressed on white blood cells that is responsible for cell trafficking across endothelial barriers, said John Groom, Elan's president and chief operating officer. In MS patients, it reduces trafficking of white blood cells across the blood-brain barrier and thereby reduces the severity of the periodic disease flares associated with MS, Elan's director of strategic planning, Eric Liebler, said.

Elan also carried out two separate pilot studies involving a total of 40 patients with Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the intestinal tract. It reported "a positive trend towards efficacy" from these studies.

The company has another Phase II study of Antegren in progress. Development of the compound is partly funded by Axogen, a venture Elan established in 1996 to fast-track development of certain drugs. — Cormac Sheridan