Researchers at Sphinx Pharmaceuticals Corp. have isolated anaturally occurring metabolite that could represent a new classof protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitors, the Durham, N.C. companyannounced Monday.

The scientists isolated the compound, balanol, from the fungusVerticillium balanoides , which grows on pine needle litterin North Carolina forests. They have determined its chemicalstructure and activity (as reported in the current issue of theJournal of the American Chemical Society), synthesized thecompound and its analogs and have demonstrated in preclinicalstudies that balanol blocks the activity of PKC, which has beenimplicated in disorders such as cancer, inflammation andcardiovascular disease.

"Of the PKC inhibitors that have been discovered, balanol isamong the most potent and is structurally unique," said CarsonLoomis, vice president of biomolecular research at Sphinx.

Sphinx (NASDAQ:SPHX) is already in Phase II clinical trials withone of its PKC inhibitors, Kynac, as a topical treatment foreczema.-- Jennifer Van Brunt

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