Epitope Inc.'s scientific advisory board is to meet today to discussplans for the development of the company's compounds to treatmalaria and other diseases.

Epitope (AMEX:EPT), which began in 1989 a collaboration withSmithKline Beecham to develop the compounds, has announced thatthe collaboration will end on Aug. 4.

SmithKline lost interest in the research early on, after an analog ofmethylthioribose (MTR), which worked against malaria strains invitro, showed only limited efficacy in mice, said John Fitchen,Epitope's vice president of research and clinical activities.

Epitope subsequently conducted pharmacology studies that showedthe compound was being secreted too rapidly in the mice's urine,said Fitchen.

Rights to the compounds will revert to Epitope, which is focused onfinding a lead compound that will stay in the system longer. TheBeaverton, Ore., company will also look for a new corporate partner.

Some MTR analogs under development work by directly inhibiting anenzyme, MTR kinase, found in a broad range of bacteria as well as inparasites such as giardia. Other analogs are metabolized by theenzyme into compounds fatal to the microbes. Because the targetenzyme is found in numerous microbes, any drug could havepotentially broad applications, said Fitchen.

SmithKline has two malaria vaccines, using adjuvants from RibiImmunoChem Research Inc. (NASDAQ:RIBI), in Phase II trials.

Epitope on Friday said revenues in its first quarter ended Dec. 31fell to $576,000 from $815,000 in the comparable 1990 quarter. Thedecline was attributed to lower production of the Epiblot AIDSconfirmatory test kit as Organon Teknika Corp., the distributor,worked down excess inventories.

The contract with Organon is up for renewal in March, and Epitope isdiscussing improved inventory control, said Epitope spokeswomanMary Hagen.

Net loss for the quarter was $1.7 million, or 20 cents a share,compared with a $775,000 loss, or 11 cents, in the 1990 quarter.

Epitope also said it has received a notice of allowance for a secondpatent on its OraSure specimen collection device.

Epitope shares fell $1.63 to $22.13 on Tuesday.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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