Cytel Corp. has received a Phase I small business innovationresearch grant for $50,000 from the National Institute ofAllergy and Infectious Disease to develop a vaccine for chronichepatitis B infection.

The San Diego company, in collaboration with Scripps ResearchInstitute, has identified several sequences from viral proteins,or epitopes, that stimulate cytotoxic T cells. The T cells are theonly immune cells capable of destroying infected liver cellsfound in chronic hepatitis B, as opposed to B cells, which arethe target of conventional vaccines.

"We believe that the hepatitis B viral epitopes which we havediscovered and formulated constitute the first therapeuticvaccine for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection," saidJay Kranzler, president and chief executive officer. "We expectto initiate human clinical trials with our lead vaccine candidatein 1993."

Chronic hepatitis afflicts more than 200 million peopleworldwide, according to the company, and an estimated 10percent of the 50 million new cases of acute infection each yearbecome chronic. "Alpha Interferon is the only drug that worksat all in chronic hepatitis B, and it works in only 30 percent ofpatients," Kranzler said. -- Kris Herbst

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