Ophidian Pharmaceuticals Inc. signed its first corporate collaborationwith Eli Lilly and Co. to develop compounds for certaingastrointestinal infections.

Ophidian could receive up to $12.4 million in equity investments,milestone payments and other precommercial payments. Thecompanies first will focus on developing Ophidian's lead compoundfor treating Clostridium difficile-associated diseases (CDAD).

Ophidian, of Madison, Wis., said its avian antibody selectivelytargets C. difficile toxins and not the intestine's normal microbes orC. difficile itself. The bacterium can cause serious diarrheal disease.

K.C. Lerner, product manager at Ophidian, said the compoundshould go into human testing toward the end of this year or early in1997. Animal studies, he said, showed not only prevention of thedisease but the ability to treat it.

"Under normal conditions C. difficile is kept under control," Lernersaid. "But when the rest of the microbial ecology is altered by the useof broad-spectrum antibiotics it becomes more successful and startsto grow since there are fewer things to compete for resources."

Antibiotics are effective against C. difficile, but targeting its specifictoxins would offer advantages, Lerner said. Using standardantibiotics would be overkill in a sense, he said, and could induceadditional antibiotic resistance.

Lilly, of Indianapolis, will conduct clinical testing of the compoundand market it worldwide. Ophidian has manufacturing rights. Thecompanies are negotiating an agreement for the supply of Ophidian'scompanion CDAD diagnostic product.

"To make this approach work we had to combine several scientificand manufacturing strengths," said Douglas Stafford, Ophidian'spresident and CEO. "First we focused on discovering what parts ofthe disease process make the best drug target. Then we designedantibodies that block this target and found a way to get theseantibodies through the digestive system to the diseased part of thegut.

"What we now have is a technology which has the potential to createan expanding family of products to manage gastrointestinalinfections. Lilly's unparalleled strengths in biologic products andinfectious disease management make them a perfect partner for thisproduct," Stafford said. n

-- Jim Shrine

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