Idec Pharmaceuticals Corp. said Thursday that the U.S. Patentand Trademark Office has allowed the company's patent for itsSpecifid panel of antibodies designed for the treatment of non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphomas and leukemias.

"It's a confirmation of our proprietary interest," Clifford Orent,Idec's senior vice president and chief operating officer, toldBioWorld.

Idec (NASDAQ:IDPH), which has headquarters in La Jolla, Calif.,and operations in Mountain View, Calif., originally exploredmaking customized antibodies to distinctive markers on eachpatient's B-cells, white blood cells that proliferate in B-cellcarcinogenisis.

"What was novel was that some were shared," Richard Krawiec,the company's head of investor relations and corporatecommunications, told BioWorld. "A small number of antibodies,in a panel of 15, react with a significant number of patients."

There are 200,000 new cases of B-cell lymphoma diagnosedannually in the U.S. From 25 percent to 30 percent of patientsrespond to this panel, Krawiec said.

B-cell lymphoma can develop rapidly, while it takes months tomake personalized antibody therapy, an approach that hasbeen abandoned, Krawiec said.

"It makes more sense in terms of therapy, business strategyand benefit to the patient to make product candidates thatcould treat many patients off the shelf," he said.

Specifid has been granted orphan drug status, giving thecompany seven years of marketing exclusivity. Idec is testingthe panel in human clinical trials in the U.S. and Canada forlow-grade and certain types of intermediate-grade non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphomas, using antibodies manufactured byIdec's European partner, Boehringer Ingelheim. The safetystudies are also comparing these antibodies with otherpreviously tested Idec antibodies.

David Webber, an analyst with Alex Brown & Sons, called thepatent notice positive, but added, "the really key milestone willbe when the product enters pivotal trials." Idec would initiatethose trials once the current studies are complete.

The patent, expected to issue in 1993, covers both the antibodypanels and immunotherapy methods. Idec is also pursuingpotential products that will react with all B-cell lymphomasand leukemias, focusing on immunologically active antibodiesthat could offer greater specificity of action, longer therapeuticeffect and lower toxicity than is typical of existing therapies.

Idec's stock closed up 25 cents on Thursday at $10.50.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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