The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases(NIAID) has awarded Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc. a$500,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)grant for continued development of its gp120 AIDS vaccineProVax.

Progenics said this novel, second-generation AIDS vaccine isdesigned to prevent the spread of HIV by generating a broadand potent immune response. Joel Sendek, Progenics' managerof corporate development and investor relations, said ProVaxworks differently than current AIDS vaccines. However, sincethe company is in the midst of filing patent applications, itcannot explain the vaccine's mechanism of action, he said.

Genentech Inc.'s and Chiron Corp.'s gp120 AIDS vaccines arecurrently in a Phase II comparative trial being conducted byNIAID's AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group.

NIH had planned to launch Phase III AIDS vaccine trials thisDecember but decided to delay them based on data presentedat a NIAID-sponsored conference last month (see BioWorld,Nov. 15). The data showed that of four candidate vaccines, onlyone, United Biomedical Inc.'s V3 loop peptide vaccine, was ableto neutralize a primary field isolate of HIV-1 -- a strain of HIVtaken directly from an HIV-infected individual.

Progenics of Tarrytown, N.Y., will use the NIH funding tocontinue preclinical development of ProVax in preparation forclinical trials. The company will also study the structure ofgp120 in collaboration with Wayne Hendrickson of ColumbiaUniversity.

This is Progenics' fourth SBIR grant. In 1990 the privately heldcompany received a Phase I award to develop a screeningassay to look for therapeutic agents that would block theinteraction between gp120 and CD4. In October 1992 itreceived the Phase I grant of the current research program todevelop a system to produce large quantities of gp120. And inMarch the company won a Phase I SBIR to develop a fusionassay to detect the formation of syncytia cells, multinucleatedgiant cells that mark the progression of HIV.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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