BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. and 3-Dimensional PharmaceuticalsInc. entered a joint venture to develop small molecule inhibitors ofserine proteases to treat inflammatory diseases.

3-Dimensional, of Exton, Pa., will use its technology, calledDirectedDiversity, to discover compounds directed against serineproteases identified by BioCryst, of Birmingham, Ala. The enzymesare involved in inappropriate activation of the complement cascade,which is part of the immune response and can cause damaginginflammatory reactions.

3-Dimensional's technology combines computer-controlled rationaldrug design with combinatorial chemistry to rapidly select drugcandidates based on the configuration of the genetic target. BioCrysthas identified the structure of several of the complement activatingenzymes.

Thomas Stagnaro, president and CEO of 3-Dimensional, said eachcompany will be responsible for its own research expenses during theproject. Once a drug candidate is selected, he said, the twocompanies may develop the product through Phase I safety trialsbefore deciding whether to seek a partner to bring the compound tomarket.

The alliance is the second in two days for 3-Dimensional. It enteredits first major pharmaceutical collaboration Tuesday with MerckKGaA, of Darmstadt, Germany, to develop a cardiovascular diseasedrug. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 23, 1996, p. 1.)

BioCryst's lead drug candidate, BCX-34, is in a Phase III trial forcutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The drug is an inhibitor of purinenucleoside phosphorylase, an enzyme linked to T-cell proliferation.

BioCryst's stock (NASDAQ:BCRX) closed Thursday at $11.25unchanged. _ Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.