Following its frustration with thymosin alpha 1 for treatment ofchronic hepatitis B, Alpha 1 Biomedicals Inc. cut its staff, reducedexpenses and is preparing to launch a new clinical developmentprogram for another drug based on a peptide from thymic extract.Alpha 1 President and CEO Vincent Simmon told BioWorldthymosin beta 4 (TB4), which yielded positive preclinical results inseveral applications, is "unrelated in chemical structure" tothymosin alpha 1 (TA1), the company's first thymic extractproduct.In late April, disappointing Phase III U.S. trial results for TA1 sentstock prices of Alpha 1 and its licensing partner, SciClonePharmaceuticals Inc., into a steep dive. Alpha 1 dropped 68 percentto $2 and SciClone fell 59 percent to $5.19.Since then, Bethesda, Md.-based Alpha 1 sold worldwide licensingrights for TA1 to SciClone, of San Mateo, Calif., in return forroyalties. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 23, 1994, p. 1.)In addition, Alpha 1 has reduced its burn rate by laying off 17people, two thirds of its staff, and has moved TB4 from the "backburner" to its lead clinical development project. With $6 million incash, Simmon said, Alpha 1 has enough resources to continueoperating into 1996.TB4, according to Alpha 1's researchers, affects the polymerizationof actin. Excess polymerized actin, the scientists said, has beenlinked to disorders, such as sepsis, cystic fibrosis, asthma, adultrespiratory distress syndrome and chronic bronchitis.In Alpha 1's animal models, Simmon added, TB4 showed promisetreating cystic fibrosis and septic shock as well as reducing thetoxicity of chemotherapy. He said the company will continuepreclinical studies in those areas and in the next few months selectapplications for clinical development.In addition to TB4, Alpha 1 is working with Cel-Sci Corp., ofAlexandria, Va., on a p17 core-based vaccine for AIDS.Alpha 1's stock (NASDAQ:ALBM) closed Friday at $1.03, up 9cents. n101094ALPHA1

-- Charles Craig

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