BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. has begun a Phase II trial of its leadcompound, BCX-34, for topical treatment of psoriasis.John Higgins, director of corporate development, said theBirmingham, Ala.-based company expects to complete the study bythe end of this year.Higgins told BioWorld 40 patients with psoriasis will be enrolledfor the dose-ranging trial at the University of Alabama atBirmingham and will be treated for six weeks. BCX-34 is a small-molecule compound designed to inhibit purine nucleosidephosphorylase, which is an enzyme linked to proliferation of Tcells.Clinical endpoints for the trial will focus on the drug's effect onerythema, thickness and scaling. In addition, measurements will betaken for plaque surface area as well as epidermal thickness,epidermal tropism and lymphocytic infiltration.Phase I/II studies of BCX-34 for psoriasis revealed the compoundwas well tolerated and suppressed proliferation of T cells. The drugalso is in Phase II trials for topical treatment of cutaneous T celllymphoma.Last month, BioCryst raised $2 million through a private placementof 515,000 shares. The company has 7.9 million shares outstanding.It's stock (NASDAQ:BCRX) closed Thursday at $5.87, up 37 cents._ Charles Craig.

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