Stock of Anergen Inc. jumped $4.25 to $13 Tuesday onpublication of research showing that its immune therapy formultiple sclerosis was able to ameliorate a model of the diseasein animals.

Researchers at the Redwood City, Calif., company(NASDAQ:ANRG) and colleagues at the University of Vermont,reporting in the current issue of the Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences, studied mice with experimentallyinduced allergic encephalomyelitis. The mouse conditionmimics human symptoms of MS.

In MS, misdirected T cells are believed to attack the myelincoating of nerve cells, resulting in paralysis. This indeedhappened in the mouse model.

Mice treated with one of the company's immune-directedAnerigiX compounds displayed less paralysis in a model of thechronic, progressive form of MS. Mice induced with a diseaseresembling the remitting form of MS and given anotherAnergen compound failed to develop paralysis at all.

The compounds consist of the portion of myelin that appears toprompt the immune attack in MS. This peptide epitope islinked to a soluble form of the major histocompatibilitycomplex (MHC), which guides T cell activation.

The molecules should specifically inactivate, or anergize, thoseT cells that attack the body to cause the disease. Examination ofthe animals' brains revealed that the inflammatory damageseen in the remitting disease failed to develop when the micewere given the MHC-peptide.

Anergen is conducting Phase I/II trials of the AnergiXcompound in MS patients. The company is also in preclinicaltesting with an analogous molecule designed to treatmyasthenia gravis, and expects to start clinical trials of thiscompound by January. A third preclinical program involves atreatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

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

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