Idec Pharmaceuticals Corp. on Thursday said it has receivedFood and Drug Administraion clearance to begin Phase I testingof its anti-idiotype agent in HIV-infected people.

The study, to be carried out in the San Diego Treatment Centerat the University of California, will look at safety and immuneresponse to the treatment, which has shown promise inprimates.

The agent, called 3C9, creates an image of a region within thegp120 coat protein of the virus. The protein, involved inbinding and entry of the virus into T helper cells, usually doesnot elicit an adequate immune response.

"We are focusing the immune response" by giving 3C9, said Dr.James A. Merritt, Idec director of clinical studies. "The patientis making lots of antibodies, but we are steering the immuneresponse toward producing anti-gp120."

Anti-idiotype antibodies mimic the shape of the proteintargeted by other antibodies. Idec's anti-id is intended tostimulate the immune system's B cells by presenting them witha clear image of the gp120 region that varies less amongstrains of HIV than other gp120 areas. The company said ithopes the B cells will respond by making specific antibodiesthat will neutralize the virus.

"Primate studies show this antibody specificity can bestimulated," Merritt told BioWorld.

The company (NASDAQ:IDPH), based in La Jolla and MountainView, Calif., has been developing 3C9 under a collaborativefunding agreement with New York Life Insurance Company.Idec stock gained $1.25 to $19 on Thursday.

-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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