ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corp. on Monday announced thatMerck & Co. has opted to extend a collaborative researchprogram aimed at identifying and designing HLA blockers aspotential treatments for autoimmune diseases.

The initial agreement, which committed Merck to fund theImmuLogic research effort through this September, withoptions for two one-year extensions, has been renewed throughSeptember 1993. Under the agreement, Merck retains theoption to extend the program for an additional year.

Merck has invested about $8.8 million in the project since1989, Janet Bush, vice president of finance and administrationat ImmuLogic (NASDAQ:IMUL), told BioWorld.

The research is oriented toward treatments for Type I diabetes,rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases, Bush said. HLA,or histocompatibility locus molecules, are crucial to interactionsbetween the immune system and foreign molecules.ImmuLogic's research aims to develop therapeutics thatinterrupt the immune response.

The research is being conducted in Palo Alto, Calif., by a teamheaded by Dr. Hugh McDevitt of the Stanford University Schoolof Medicine.

Under the Merck agreement, the Cambridge, Mass., companywill receive royalties on sales of products resulting from thecollaboration. Merck has an equity investment in ImmuLogic ofabout 1.2 million shares, or about 9.5 percent, according toBush.

ImmuLogic shares gained 25 cents to $13.25.

-- Steve Usdin BioWorld Washington Bureau

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