Michelle SladeAssociate Editor

In a simultaneous announcement yesterday, CeltrixPharmaceuticals said it acquired Maryland-based BaltimoreBiotech, Inc. (BBI), a company focusing on ophthalmic diseasetreatments, and that it has begun human clinical trials usingits BetaKine, a molecule closely connected to wound healing,to treat certain types of macular degeneration.

Under the agreement all outstanding BBI stock will beexchanged for approximately 100,000 newly issued shares ofCeltrix common stock. In return Celtrix receives BBI'sintellectual property - ophthalmic biology and clinicalexpertise, patents and patents applications.

According to Dale Stringfellow, Celtrix's president,ophthalmology was not an area initially developed by thecompany but the success BBI's studies using BetaKine to treatmacular holes, and its potential to treat macular degenerationconvinced Celtrix to explore the field more extensively.

BBI has been investigating BetaKine since 1990 for use inmacular holes and the compound, administered to the eye viainterocular injections, in higher dose studies showed a 95%degree of healing response and sight restoration. SaidStringfellow, "The success of these studies lead us into ourcurrent trials using BetaKine for macular degeneration."

Of interest to Celtrix are patents that BBI owns covering theinhibition of neovascularization compounds responsible for eyedegeneration disease and caused by excessive blood vesselformation. According to Stringfellow, preclinical studiesshowed the orally active compound to be beneficial in earlydegenerative cases.

Said Stringfellow,"Although we haven't done extensiveevaluation of BBI's technology we view it as an opportunity todevelop our ophthalmic product line and through therelationship we should see products into the clinic and throughregistration much quicker."

Significantly, Celtrix picks up Bert M. Glaser in theacquisition. Glaser, founder of BBI and director of The RetinaCenter at Baltimore's St Joseph Hospital. Glaser is leading theBetaKine trials at St. Joseph's to investigate the use of thecompound in treating macular degeneration, a blinding, age-related eye disease that involves the central portion of theretina in the eye affecting over ten million aging Americans.

Stringfellow could not estimate the market value of BetaKinebut said the fact that BetaKine, when used in conjunction withsurgical procedures (which costs up to $10,000), is a sight-saving treatment for patients going blind alludes to thereasonable value the compound could bring.

Commented Jean Anne Mire, an analyst with Kemper Securitiesin Chicago, "Celtrix now has the advantage of having a highlevel of expertise in the very large macular degenerationmarket."

Springfellow said he expects BetaKine's application formacular holes to reach U.S registration by 1994 and formacular degeneration a year or two.

Santa Clara-based Celtrix is pursuing potential therapies fordegenerative diseases associated with aging or autoimmuneconditions. Its current efforts focus on three naturallyoccurring, cell-regulating proteins, BetaKine, IGF-BP3, and asoluble TGF-beta cell receptor. The company is scaling upproduction of IGF-BP3 for preclinical safety studies inpreparation for human testing, and are producing lab quantitiesof TGF-beta for use in preclinical studies.

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.