Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc. has acquired from Eli Lilly and Co.exclusive worldwide rights to two classes of non-peptidic HIVprotease inhibitors that the companies have been co-developingunder a 1988 agreement.

In return, Agouron (NASDAQ:AGPH) will provide Lilly withproprietary details of the three-dimensional atomic structure of anenzyme that Agouron said "plays an essential role in the life cycle ofan undisclosed, but clinically important family of pathogenic virusesunrelated to HIV." Neither the enzyme nor the viruses it targets weredisclosed.

Under its original agreement with Lilly, Agouron had the right toeither a two-digit royalty on Lilly sales of the protease inhibitors orup to 50 percent of Lilly pre-tax profits if Agouron co-developed thecompounds. The exchange of technology, announced last week,involves no payment of royalties or other continuing financialobligations between the two companies.

Agouron of La Jolla, Calif., said it will present preclinical data on theorally active HIV protease inhibitors on Jan. 12 at the Hambrecht &Quist conference in San Francisco. Agouron's director of corporatecommunications, Donna Nichols, said the company hopes to have oneor two compounds in clinical trials in the second half of 1994.

Peter Johnson, Agouron's president and chief executive officer, saidthe protease inhibitors in the company's portfolio include compounds"that display desirable pharmacological properties in vivo and anti-HIV activity in vitro which is equal to or greater than that of anyother HIV protease inhibitor yet reported."

According to Agouron, about 10 companies have reported onapproximately 10 to 20 compounds. Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., Merck& Co. Inc. and Abbott Laboratories are among the companiesdeveloping protease inhibitors. Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. andWellcome plc also are collaborating on the development of orallyactive protease inhibitors.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.