Glycomed Inc. has decided to discontinue the internal development ofits drug Astenose for the prevention of restenosis, or narrowing of thearteries, following angioplasty.Brian Atwood, the Alameda, Calif. company's president and chiefoperating officer, told BioWorld the decision was reached after theAmerican College of Cardiology's meeting in March. "We realizedthere were several products in development that showed surprisingefficacy in the treatment of restenosis, such as Centocor's CentoRx. Wehad been following them, but didn't believe they would prove soeffective."This suggested to us that Astenose would face much more competitionthan we had expected. More important, these competing productswould have to be a part of a Phase III trial and would make the costsmuch higher," Atwood said.New research has also demonstrated the complexity of the diseaseprocess in restenosis, Atwood added. "Restenosis was thought to beperforation of the smooth muscle cells of the arterial wall. But now weknow other things are going on as well," he said.The announcement comes shortly after Glycomed released encouragingresults of a study of Astenose in baboons. In January, the companyreported that Astenose reduced restenosis by 50 to 75 percent inbaboons given the treatment for 30 days.However, indications that Astenose might be in trouble appeared lastyear. In January 1993, Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, with whichGlycomed had a research and development agreement for Astenose,pulled out of the deal and restored exclusive worldwide rights tocommercialize the drug to Glycomed. According to Atwood, Lilly wasconcerned about evidence of toxicity in rabbits. However, Atwoodsaid, Glycomed has proved that the toxic reaction was species specific.Another sign of trouble appeared when the FDA in March responded toGlycomed's investigational new drug application for Astenose byasking for more information on the toxicology and chemistry of thecompound.Atwood told BioWorld the company's decision to abandon Astenosewas not influenced by the FDA's action. He said Glycomed has chosento devote its resources to its other products in development. One,Galardin MPI, is in Phase II/III trials as a treatment for corneal ulcers.Glycomed also has a collaboration with Genentech Inc., of South SanFrancisco, which has been extended through 1997, to developcarbohydrate-based drugs for the treatment of Adult RespiratoryDistress Syndrome and other indications.Brandon Fradd, a biotechnology analyst with Montgomery Securitiesin San Francisco, said the decision to drop Astenose was "pretty muchanticipated as far as we could tell."He said the fact that Astenose would require patients to be treated inthe hospital for seven to 30 days was a strike against it, especially sinceother drugs appear effective and don't have this requirement.Bradd said Glycomed's Galardin MPI should work as a treatment forcorneal ulcers based on animal studies. But he noted that the market fordrugs for corneal ulcers is much smaller than for restenosis. "At a priceof some $200 per treatment, it would bring in $20 to $25 million ayear. It won't be a big driver, but if it works they would have a viableproduct on which they could expect to build the company, but on asmaller scale."Fradd said Glycomed has some money to go on before it runs out.Fradd said he expects the company may try to persuade bondholders,who hold some $50 million, to convert those bonds into equity or cash.Glycomed (NASDAQ:GLYC) stock closed at $2.75 a share, down 63cents.

-- Philippa Maister

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