Interferon Sciences Inc. has started Phase I trials of itsinjectable interferon alfa-n3 for asymptomatic HIV-positivepatients, the company announced Monday.

During in vitro tests at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research,unexpectedly low concentrations of the drug blocked theproduction of HIV virus. The human trials, being conducted byWalter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center, will try todetermine whether the results can be safely and effectivelyreproduced in 20 asymptomatic patients over a 12-weekperiod.

Although the trials will be the first test of Alferon N Injectionin HIV-infected patients, prior studies of recombinant alphainterferon have shown that high doses can result in a decline inHIV found in asymptomatic patients. Alferon, extracted fromcultured white blood cells, is a natural form.

The trials are being funded by Purdue Pharma L.P., whosePurdue Frederick Co. affiliate is marketing Alferon N Injectionin the United States.

The New Brunswick, N.J., company's drug is currently approvedfor the intralesional treatment of refractory, or recurring,external genital warts in patients 18 years or older. Its stock(NASDAQ:IFSC) closed Monday at $8.25, up 25 cents. -- KrisHerbst

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