* Medco Research Inc., of Research Triangle Park, N.C., discovered a new series of adenosine-based compounds with a novel mechanism of action designated adenosine allosteric modulators. Among the compounds discovered are inhibitors and enhancers of adenosine A1-receptors. A class of drugs with similar activity is the benzodiazepines, such as Valium.

* Penederm Inc., of Foster City, Calif., commenced two pivotal Phase III clinical trials to evaluate a new topical antifungal combination therapy, called 501 cream. The trials involve 32 sites and 1,600 patients. The Phase III trials follow encouraging data from Phase II trials, showing the 501 cream effectively treats tinea pedis (athlete's foot) when applied twice daily for seven days.

* SynZyme Technologies Inc., of Irvine, Calif., received four Phase I grants and a Phase II grant from the Small Business Innovation Research program of the Department of Health and Human Services. The grants total $1.15 million. Carleton Hsia, chairman and CEO, said the money will be used to develop polynitroxyl albumin (PNA) for stroke, possibly in collaboration with a corporate partner.

* Zeneca Diagnostics Inc., of Abingdon, U.K., launched a genetic test to find abnormalities associated with adult emphysema and progressive liver cirrhosis in children. The new test, which detects the two most common deficiency alleles of the alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) gene, will be marketed under the brand name Elucigene. About 75 percent of adults with deficiency of the AAT protein will develop emphysema, and a particular combination of the AAT alleles in children leads to neonatal liver disease and cirrhosis. Zeneca Diagnostics is part of London-based Zeneca Group P.L.C.

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