VimRx Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Tuesday that it willbegin human clinical trials of VimRxyn, its hypericin-basedanti-viral drug for human papillomavirus (HPV), in a jointagreement with Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.

The trials, due to begin Nov. 1, will involve one intravenousdose of VimRxyn followed by administration of a lighttreatment on the wart area. "We're looking to see if this doseand treatment combination works in clearing the warts," saidJoanne Kompare, a clinical research associate with VimRx.

VimRxyn is based on Hypericin, the lead compound of a familyof polycyclic aromatic diones. According to a report in theMarch 1992 AIDS Treatment News, hypericin has an importantside effect: Large doses cause abnormal sensitivity to sunlightand other strong light, posing questions about whether thedrug can be given in large enough doses to be useful fortreating HIV and other viruses.

According to Kompare, however, this phototoxic effect appearsto enhance the activity of hypericin in HPV patients, asevidenced in VimRx's Phase I human clinical trials with HIV-positive patients. An HIV-positive patient with anogenitalwarts receiving VimRxyn under these studies experienced atotal reduction of warts after treatment.

Richard Podell, VimRx's president, told BioWorld that neither ofthe two therapies commonly used for HPV -- direct injection ofinterferon and podophyllin, a topical treatment -- are effectiveagainst the disease.

"In these trials we are looking for signs of reduction of wartarea, although we can't say yet that VimRxyn will provide acure," Podell said.

HPV affects more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. annually,and a recent study by the University of California, Berkeley,found that 46 percent of sexually active young women testedpositive for the disease, which has serious side effects.

VimRx (NASDAQ:VMRX) of Stamford, Conn., is developingtherapeutic products for viral and retroviral diseases. Thecompany's stock closed down 6 cents a share to $1.13 onTuesday.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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