Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Thursday that ithas signed a definitive licensing agreement with Elan Corp. plcon Interneuron's medical food product for patients withParkinson's disease.

Under the terms of this agreement (and an earlier optionagreement between the two, reached in April 1991 andextended a year later), Elan agreed to pay $5.4 million (ofwhich it paid $400,000 previously) in advance royalties toInterneuron for worldwide exclusive rights to the product, withadditional royalties to be paid in connection with future sales.

The product will be manufactured and marketed by Elan's(ASE:ELN) Cambridge, Mass.-based NutraPharm division. Elan,headquartered in Athlone, Ireland, is planning to introduce theproduct in the U.S. before the end of the year. It will beInterneuron's first product to enter the marketplace.

Interneuron's (NASDAQ:IPIC) product consists of a combinationof protein (consisting of essential amino acids) andcarbohydrate, mixed to provide optimal nutrition toParkinson's disease patients who are receiving L-dopa therapy.

L-dopa is administered to correct deficiencies of theneurotransmitter dopamine, which helps restore the musclecontrol lost as the disease progresses. Maintaining propernutrition in these patients is often difficult because L-dopa(which is a neutral amino acid) competes with other aminoacids. A high-protein diet can lower the amount of L-dopa thatcrosses the blood-brain barrier; a low-protein diet can allowtoo much L-dopa to enter the brain, which leads toovermedication, explained Bill Boni, Interneuron's director ofcorporate communications. Interneuron's product, which is amedicinal food and not regulated by FDA, "preserves theneurological integrity of Parkinson's patients," Boni toldBioWorld.

He added that Interneuron, which is located in Lexington,Mass., is currently working on several formulations of thisproduct; The first will be a liquid meant to replace a singlemeal.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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