British Bio-technology Group plc (BBL) plans to use InSiteVision Inc.'s drug delivery systems to evaluate BB-94, BBL'scollagenase inhibitor, in human eye disease.

BBL of Oxford, England, said Monday that it will investigate BB-94 as a topical treatment for post-corneal surgery.

Under the terms of the agreement, InSite will fund and conductU.S. Phase I trials in mid-1993. If the safety trials aresuccessful, InSite will also fund and manage Phase II trials inpatients undergoing corneal surgery.

In return, according to company spokeswoman Christa Nicholas,InSite will gain access to BBL's data on non-ophthalmic uses ofBB-94, as well as the option to negotiate with BBL a co-exclusive license to develop, manufacture and market BB-94for ophthalmic indications in North America. Along with co-exclusive rights in North America, BBL will retain exclusiverights to the drug elsewhere.

BBL's BB-94 product is a broad spectrum inhibitor of matrixmetalloproteinases (MMP), a family of enzymes that includescollagenase. MMPs are responsible for the breakdown in thebody of tissue-support material known as extra-cellular matrix.

In preclinical studies, the compound has been shown topromote faster healing and inhibit the growth of new bloodvessels after surface injuries to the cornea.

BB-94 has proven to be an anti-cancer agent, and BBL iscurrently in Phase I/II trials of oral BB-94 in breast cancerpatients in the United Kingdom. The company plans trials withan injectable version in early 1993.

According to Tim Wilson, an analyst with Hambrecht & Quist inNew York, BB-94 is specifically developed to inhibit metastasisbecause cancer cells produce unusually large amounts of MMPs.Therefore, said Wilson, the compound could be useful againstother diseases that also produce large amounts of MMPs,including corneal disease.

"This is an example of BBL leveraging its expertise in theinhibition of MMPs using BB-94, and now (through thecollaboration with InSite) they don't have to develop their owndelivery techniques," said Wilson.

InSite Vision's proprietary drug delivery vehicle, DuraSite, isan eyedrop formulation containing a cross-linked acrylic acidpolymer that settles in the lower eyelid for several hours andis released by diffusion and bioerosion.

InSite recently formed a collaboration with Synergen Inc. ofBoulder, Colo., to study Synergen's IL-1ra (interleukin-1receptor antagonist) for ocular applications. That joint ventureis also using InSite's DuraSite technology.

According to Nicholas, InSite of Alameda, Calif., intends topursue more biotechnology collaborations becausebiotechnology is a "logical place" to seek new compounds thatrequire sophisticated drug delivery techniques.

"InSite's mission is to forge these alliances to obtain excitingnew compounds to open up new therapeutic opportunities forophthalmic applications, " said Nicholas. "The marriage betweendrug delivery and biotechnology makes sense."

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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