Anergen Inc. announced Thursday that it has obtained a U.S.patent for major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-basedcompounds for the induction of anergy in T cells.

The patent, No. 5,260,422, covers soluble MHC class II peptidecomplexes in pharmaceutical compositions as well as modesand the method of the compositions for inducing anergy. It isthe second patent Anergen has been issued in the field ofsoluble MHC.

John Fara, Anergen's president, told BioWorld that MHCpresents a peptide to a T cell receptor, thereby activating the Tcell and turning on the immune system. He said Anergendiscovered that when MHC is removed from the cell membraneand used as a soluble drug, it sends a different message to Tcells, turning them off.

Fara said this was an unanticipated discovery made asresearchers were attempting to attach a toxin to MHC and useMHC as a way to target the toxin to the T cells. "In earlyexperiments we discovered that we didn't need the toxin," Farastated.

Anergen (NASDAQ:ANRG) of Redwood City, Calif., was originallyfounded as Biospan Corp. in 1988 and renamed in 1991.Anergen refers to the generation of anergy, or non-responsiveness, in T cells, a subset of white blood cells involvedin the immune response. Anergen is developing compounds totreat autoimmune disorders and allergy. It has an Anergixcompound for multiple sclerosis and an Anergix compound formyasthenia gravis in preclinicals.

The company also has a rheumatoid arthritis program and justrecently began a collaboration with an academic investigator inthe area of inflammatory bowel disease.

Fara said other companies are doing research to prevent theMHC from being recognized by T cell receptors. By inducing thecells with large amounts of a peptide, they hope to compete outthe existing peptide in the MHC.

Anergen's stock was down 50 cents a share on Thursday,closing at $7.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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