Shaman Pharmaceuticals Inc. is launching a Phase II study of Virendas a first-line therapy for herpes infections. The company announcedThursday that the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial ofapproximately 40 patients will be conducted at two centers inMexico.

Shaman's president and chief executive officer, Lisa Conte, said thetrial is being conducted in Mexico because acyclovir, the onlyapproved herpes treatment, is not standard care in Mexico. "In theU.S., where acyclovir is the standard therapy, it would have beendifficult to achieve patient recruitment," she said.

A Phase I/II pilot trial of Virend evaluated the topical drug in 10AIDS patients with acyclovir-resistant herpes. Shaman said it willrelease results of this study at the annual Hambrecht & QuistHealthcare Conference on Jan. 10 in San Francisco.

Virend is Shaman's second compound in clinical trials. Its drug Proviris in Phase II clinicals for the treatment of respiratory syncytialvirus (RSV) infections. In September, Shaman (NASDAQ:SHMN) ofSouth San Francisco, Calif., reported that Provir was well-tolerated ina Phase II study of 32 adults experimentally infected with RSV. Theactive ingredient in both Provir and Virend is SP-303, an anti-viralcompound derived from a medicinal plant. -- Brenda Sandburg

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