Privately held RiboGene Inc. has signed an agreement with Warner-Lambert Co. to develop antiviral drugs based on the Hayward, Calif.,company's technology targeting cell translation.

Financial terms of the collaboration, announced today, were notdisclosed. Under the agreement, RiboGene will screen Warner-Lambert's library of compounds for potential drug candidates andwill receive milestone payments and royalties on productsdeveloped.

Charles Casamento, RiboGene's chairman and CEO, said the deal isthe first research and development collaboration with a majorpharmaceutical company for RiboGene, which was founded in 1990.

He told BioWorld the two companies expect to begin animal testingwith a specific compound in about a year.

RiboGene researchers said translation is the second of two mainsteps in cellular protein production. The first is transcription duringwhich the genetic instructions for making proteins are copied fromDNA to produce messenger RNA in the cell's nucleus. In thetranslation process, which occurs in the cytoplasm, amino acids areassembled into proteins according to sequences specified bymessenger RNA.

Some viruses, the researchers explained, replicate by "hijacking" thetranslation process and synthesizing viral proteins. In RiboGene'sapproach to fighting diseases, the aim is to develop therapeuticcompounds that protect the cell's translation process from viralattack.

Casamento said RiboGene has developed assays that are designed toscreen specifically for compounds with antiviral activity at thetranslation process stage of protein production.

In addition to its translation-targeted approach to drug development,Casamento said RiboGene has three products in clinicaldevelopment. Emitasol is in Phase III studies. The drug is anintranasal form of metoclopramide and is used for treating nauseaand vomiting experienced by patients treated with chemotherapy andradiation.

A second product, Migrastat, is in Phase II trials for migraineheadaches and is an intranasal form of propanolol. The third drugcandidate, RG 201, is expected to enter Phase I trials this year forpneumocystis, a fungal infection of the lungs that occurs in AIDSand cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. n

-- Charles Craig

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