Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc. began a Phase I trial Thursday of itsfirst protease inhibitor to be tested against HIV.The La Jolla, Calif., company will test AG1343 in 30 healthyvolunteers at the Besselaar Clinical Research Unit in Leeds,England. The trial is expected to take 60 days. If successful, theplan is to be ready to conduct Phase II trials in both the U.S. andEurope early in 1995, Donna Nichols, Agouron's director,corporate communications, told BioWorld.She said the synthetic small molecule was effective in haltingreplication of laboratory, clinical and drug-resistant strains of HIVin a variety of cultured cell lines. It demonstrated in vitro activityagainst both acute and chronic HIV infections, Nichols said."Recent clinical reports have established [that] HIV proteaseinhibitors are by far the most promising class" of drugs against thedisease, she said, adding that there's a lot of competition in the areanow. That's one reason Agouron moved the compound, whichstarted to be developed in January, so quickly to this point.Agouron discovered the compound along with Eli Lilly & Co.during an earlier collaboration on HIV protease inhibitors. Agouronreceived worldwide commercial rights to a number of proteaseinhibitors, including AG1343, in exchange for proprietary details ofthe three-dimensional atomic structure of rhinovirus 3C protease. Abackup compound is AG1350.Last week Agouron announced that it initiated a Phase II programfor its drug, AG337, that will test the agent against six solid tumortypes. Its stock (NASDAQ:AGPH) was down 25 cents Thursday,closing at $11 per share. _ Jim Shrine

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