Athena Neurosciences Inc. said Wednesday that it has beengranted orphan drug designation for its Type B botulinum toxinfor treatment of cervical dystonia.

The chronic disorder is characterized by involuntarycontractions of muscles, most often in the neck and/orshoulders. Injections of the toxin blocks the release of theneurotransmitter acetylcholine, alleviating the spasms.

The South San Francisco, Calif., company (NASDAQ:ATHN) plansto file to begin human trials of the toxin, called AN-072, thisyear. AN-072 is being developed in a collaboration with theMichigan Department of Public Health under which Athena hascertain worldwide marketing and distribution rights to uses ofthe toxin as human therapeutics.

Athena stock lost 50 cents to $16.

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