Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s broad pipeline got even more robustwith the company's presentation on new potential applications forone of its lead retinoid drugs.

Ligand, of San Diego, reported preclinical data Thursday showingTargretin, already in late-stage studies, might also have utility inType II diabetes and breast cancer. While reporting of preclinicaldata usually does not result in significant moves in the stock of anestablished company, Ligand shares gained 19 percent after thepresentation of the data at the Bear Stearns Co. conference in NewYork.

Peter Ginsberg, a vice president and analyst at Vector SecuritiesInternational Inc., in Deerfield, Ill., said investors were reacting notso much to the preclinical data as they were to a presentation on thecompany's pipeline.

"What's exciting," Ginsberg said, "is all this late-stage clinical data atLigand. Things are going to be heating up over the next nine to 12months. It's no longer a situation where an investor can wait becausethose events are imminent."

On Thursday Ginsberg, citing the preclinical data, reiterated a buyrating on the stock.

Two weeks earlier he put out a report with a buy rating based on theinitiation of three new pivotal studies and more than a dozen ongoingPhase IIb trials, saying investors should buy ahead of upcomingclinical milestones.

Ligand's stock (NASDAQ:LGND) lost some of Thursday's $2.50gain on Friday, closing down 75 cents at $14.88.

The fact that the retinoid compound Targretin already has beenthrough safety studies will allow Ligand a quicker path through theclinic for the new indications. The Type II data showed thecompound significantly decreased blood glucose, triglyceride andinsulin levels in mouse models of Type II diabetes and obesity. In arat model of mammary carcinoma, the drug reduced incidence andtumor frequency as well as or better than tamoxifen, without thereduction in mean body weight.

"Our molecular approach to drug discovery, coupled with ourextensive understanding of retinoid action, has led us to theidentification of an unexpected and novel class of compounds thathave promise in new indications," Richard Heyman, Ligand director,retinoid research, said in a news release after Thursday's conference.

In the mouse diabetes study Targretin was compared to the lead drugfrom the promising new class of drugs called thiazolidinediones(TZD) and a control group.

After 14 days Targretin decreased blood glucose by 40 percent,triglycerides by 30 percent and insulin by 20 percent. Targretin wasas effective as TZD and demonstrated additional effects when used incombination with TZD.

Ligand described Targretin as a small organic compound thatselectively activates a subclass of retinoid receptors called RXRs,which play a role in cellular activities, including programmed celldeath.

A topical Targretin formulation is entering pivotal studies forcutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). An oral form of the drug isentering pivotal Phase II/III studies for CTCL and is in Phase II inlung cancer, head and neck cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, ovariancancer, prostate cancer and renal cell cancer.

Ginsberg said the preclinical data on Targretin is promising, but thestock is being driven by the late-stage development for that drug andothers. One of the others, a retinoid drug called Panretin (formerlyALRT1057), is in a pivotal study for Kaposi's sarcoma.

Ginsberg said a new drug application filing for one of the drugsshould be made in 1997, allowing one of the compounds to reach themarket in 1998. n

-- Jim Shrine

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