Amgen Inc. increased its stake in Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. tonearly 18 percent Tuesday with the purchase of 3 million shares for$48 million.

The $16-per-share purchase price represented a significant premiumto the price of Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN), which gained 88 centsTuesday to close at $13.63. Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, Calif.,received warrants to purchase another 700,000 shares, which wouldbring its holdings in Regeneron to just under 20 percent.

Amgen, under their 1990 agreement, is restricted from holding morethan 20 percent of Regeneron, which now has 25 million sharesoutstanding.

The companies are 50/50 partners, in the U.S., on the development oftwo neurotrophic factors _ brain-derived neurotrophic factor(BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3). Patient enrollment has beencompleted in a double-blind, placebo-controlled pivotal Phase IIItrial of BDNF for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The study, involvingmore than 1,000 patients, should be completed in the fourth quarter,said Murray Goldberg, Regeneron's vice president of finance andadministration and chief financial officer.

Both BDNF and NT-3 are being studied in Phase I/II trials fordiabetic peripheral neuropathy. Amgen plans additional tests ofBDNF later this year.

Regeneron, of Tarrytown, N.Y., ended 1995 with $60 million in cashand marketable securities. The company's net loss last year was$23.5 million. With the additional $48 million Regeneron is in goodshape to meet its funding obligations in the partnership and advanceits preclinical programs.

Goldberg said the Amgen investment gives Regeneron a lot offlexibility. "This clearly extends the amount of time we can gowithout additional financing," he said. "It's important to us becausewe have a number of clinical trials being sponsored by Amgen-Regeneron Partners and three lead preclinical programs. This givesus the resources to move them along as fast as scientifically andeconomically justified."

The three preclinical programs involve a protein antagonist forinterleukin-6 as a potential treatment for cancer-associated cachexiaand inflammatory diseases; a new family of ligands that may play arole in blood vessel growth and generation of new blood cells; and areceptor specifically expressed in skeletal muscle and its proteinligand, which may be useful in treating muscle injury or atrophy.

Goldberg said the three programs are on a parallel track, but hewouldn't speculate on how near they are to the clinic. "They arereceiving a considerable amount of attention and resources," he said.n

-- Jim Shrine

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