CoCensys Inc. announced on Tuesday that it has started inLondon Phase I/II trials of CCD1045, a compound for inducingsleep.

CCD1045 is a member of the Epalon family of naturallyoccurring metabolites of the hormone progesterone. CoCensys isdeveloping a range of applications based on the Epaloncompounds, according to Robert McNeil, chairman of theprivately held company. The insomnia indication is the firstapplication to go to the clinic.

The Irvine, Calif., company estimates the annual U.S. market forsleep induction at $400 million. It expects to capture "areasonably significant portion" of this market because theexisting treatments, such as Halcion, "all have side effects thatwe believe our compounds do not possess," said McNeil.

CoCensys also is developing Epalon compounds for epilepsy,generalized anxiety disorders and the emotional symptoms ofpremenstrual syndrome. McNeil said that CoCensys plans tolaunch in early 1993 Phase I trials of an Epalon compound as atreatment for West Syndrome, a form of epilepsy also knownas infantile spasms, which afflicts young children.

The company was established in 1989 with $100,000 in seedcapital from Sanderling Ventures. CoCensys has received tworounds of private financing of $3.2 million and $10 million andis positioning itself for a public offering, according to McNeil.The current investors include Sanderling Ventures, which has a22 percent stake; Domain Associates, 16 percent; andAbingworth Ltd., 10 percent.

Patents for CoCensys' core Epalon technology date to the mid-1980s, McNeil said. He said that CoCensys chief scientificofficer, Kelvin Gee, and his colleagues at the University ofCalifornia, Irvine, discovered the site of action of the Epaloncompounds, which interact with the gamma-aminobutyric acidreceptor, a widely prevalent receptor in the central nervoussystem that modulates neuronal activity. -- Steve Usdin

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