Ares-Serono Group is launching a Phase II/III study in Europeof its recombinant beta interferon, Rebif, for treatment ofrelapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).

Ares-Serono of Geneva, Switzerland, said Wednesday that italso plans to conduct multicenter trials in North America andAustralia later this year.

Ares-Serono's recombinant beta interferon is derived frommammalian cells while Chiron Corp.'s product, Betaseron, isderived from Escherichia coli bacteria. Betaseron was approvedin July for use in patients with relapsing/remitting MS. Clinicaltrials demonstrated that the drug was effective in reducing thefrequency and severity of acute attacks in patients withmoderate disease. Biogen Inc. is also developing a recombinantbeta interferon, which analyst Richard van den Broek ofOppenheimer & Co. said has the same molecule as Serono'scompound.

Ares-Serono's natural beta interferon, Frone, is currentlymarketed for chronic viral hepatitis B and C, hairy cellleukemia, genital herpes, and as an adjuvant for breast anduterine cancers in Argentina, Brazil, Georgia (of the formerSoviet Union), Israel, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, Thailandand Uruguay. The company said it also is considering studyingFrone for use in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.-- Brenda Sandburg

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