Incyte Pharmaceuticals Inc. reported Thursday that animaltests of its BPI anti-sepsis agent showed that it outperformedCentocor Inc.'s Centoxin monoclonal antibody in a head-to-headcomparison.

Incyte said its bacterial permeability-increasing protein hadhigher binding strength to the endotoxin that causes sepsis. Thedrug also blocked the release into the blood of cytokines suchas tumor necrosis factor, which prompts the cascade thatresults in septic shock, the company said -- an action that couldnot be performed by the Centocor product.

The results were presented Thursday at the Meeting of theFederation of American Societies for Experimental Biology inAnaheim, Calif.

Dr. Charles J. Fisher Jr., director of the center for clinical careresearch at the Cleveland Clinic and a scientific adviser to thecompany, said BPI has the potential to work in a wider varietyof patients than Centocor's Centoxin and Xoma Corp.'s E5 anti-sepsis monoclonals.

Fisher co-authored the report on Centocor's Phase III testing ofCentoxin and also participated in testing of Synergen Inc.'s IL-1receptor antagonist.

"We anticipate a stronger clinical result" from BPI, Fisher said,based on results in new animal tests that provide betterpredictors of clinical outcomes.

Privately held Incyte of Palo Alto, Calif., has an agreement withGenentech Inc. to develop and commercialize BPI. Incyteretains all rights in Japan and the Far East, while the South SanFrancisco, Calif., company holds exclusive rights in all othermarkets. Incyte plans to move the compound into Phase Itesting by early 1993.

Xoma (NASDAQ:XOMA) is also developing BPI in collaborationwith scientists at New York University who discovered theprotein. NYU, which has applied for patents in the U.S. andelsewhere, in 1990 gave exclusive rights to BPI and fragmentsof BPI to the Berkeley, Calif., company.

In February, U.S. patent No. 5,089,274 issued to Incyte for useof BPI and all active analogs of the protein, which is made inneutrophil white blood cells.

Centocor (NASDAQ:CNTO) this week defended its antibody in aletter to The Lancet, in response to cautionary statements airedrecently in the British journal about last-ditch attempts to saveseptic infants with Centoxin.

The Malvern, Pa., company countered suggestions that Centoxinmight induce release of inflammatory mediators, pointing toadverse reactions "in less than 1 percent" of the 6,000 patients,including 140 children, who have received the product.

Centocor shares on Thursday gained 50 cents to $34. Xomaclosed at $18.13, up 63 cents. -- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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