Synergen Inc. and Syntex USA Inc. said Wednesday that theyhave begun a Phase I trial of ciliary neurotrophic factor to treatamyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, causes progressive degenerationof the motor nerves. CNTF is a nerve repair factor that inpreclinical studies has shown it may prevent or slow thedegeneration of the primary motor neurons that leads to deathfor people with the disease, the companies said.

The trial will focus on CNTF's safety and pharmacokinetics.Several single doses will be given to a small number ofpatients.

CNTF is the third ALS-related compound to enter the clinic inrecent weeks. In April, Cephalon Inc. (NASDAQ:CEPH) startedPhase I European trials of Myotrophin, its recombinant insulin-like growth factor treatment. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.(NASDAQ:REGN) earlier this month began Phase I trials of itsCNTF treatment.

Synergen of Boulder, Colo., and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Syntexformed their joint venture in 1990 to develop protein-basedtherapeutics to treat neurological diseases. CNTF is the firstfactor from the joint venture to enter the clinic. Other proteinsin development are nerve growth factor, basic fibroblastgrowth factor and Parkinson's factor.

Synergen shares (NASDAQ:SYGN) rose 50 cents to $38.50,Cephalon dropped $1.13 to $9.13, and Regeneron wasunchanged at $12. -- KB

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