Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc. didn't really need to update investorsWednesday at Hambrecht & Quist LLC's 14th Annual HealthcareFinancial Conference. Analysts already had spread the latest goodnews about the company's protease inhibitor.

The bottom line in the company's presentation was that the drug,Viracept, did result in better responses at higher doses. Thatinformation came from the last of a series of pilot Phase II studiesAgouron has been running with the drug.

That information, along with some new combination therapy data,was presented last weekend in New York at a meeting of HIVpatients and activists. Analyst Ed Hurwitz and others also were inattendance.

Hurwitz, of San Francisco-based Robertson, Stephens & Co., put outa report Monday suggesting purchase of the stock in advance of near-term presentations, the first of which was the Hambrecht & Quistconference. The stock (NASDAQ:AGPH) shot up 14 percent, or$4.75, on Monday and Tuesday, trading as high as $41.25 Tuesday.It dropped 50 cents Wednesday to close at $38.

Peter Johnson, president and CEO, of La Jolla, Calif.-based Agouron,told BioWorld Today Wednesday that preliminary summaryinformation from the last of the dosing studies showed "there isindeed a strong dose response to this drug. That was an importantquestion, because earlier data left some questions in people's minds.That's the issue we laid to rest.

"There was very little new information," Johnson said. "Justconfirmation of the dose response, and that the magnitude of theantiviral response seems to be right on part with the very bestcompounds in this class."

Clinicians who conducted the pilot Phase IIs will be presenting morecomplete results at a retroviral meeting in Washington at the end ofthe month.

Agouron has run eight pilot studies of Viracept (formerly calledAG1343) in about 20 patients. One of the studies tested Viracept incombination with d4T, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s nucleosideanalogue.

In his report issued Monday, Hurwitz said high doses of Viraceptalone and in combination with d4T provided greater efficacy thanwas shown in earlier studies. He also said the data were comparableto the best data seen from the protease inhibitors from Merck & Co.Inc., of New York, and Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill.

Johnson said a series of series of Phase II/III trials of Viracept, as amonotherapy and in combination therapies, will begin rolling out inFebruary. One of the studies, he said, will be a combination ofViracept with the approved drugs, AZT and 3TC. n

-- Jim Shrine

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