Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Tuesday presented mousedata showing that ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) promotesthe survival of motor neuron cells that degenerate and die inpeople with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive nervous systemdisorder that causes degeneration of motor neurons.

Regeneron scientists presented their findings at the annualmeeting of the Society of Neuroscience in New Orleans.

The study was conducted on Mnd mice, a strain with anaturally occurring motor neuron deficit similar to the one inALS patients. About 40 mice were treated with CNTF for twomonths, starting at 5 months of age. At the end of that period,the treated mice showed about 30 percent to 40 percent lessdeterioration in their walking pattern than 40 untreatedcontrol animals, said Ron Lindsay, program director ofneurobiology at Regeneron. The animals aren't cured by thetreatment.

CNTF binds to receptors on motor neurons. This triggers someunknown biochemical pathway in the cell, preventing neuronsfrom degenerating, Lindsay said.

In comments published on Monday, Merrill Lynch analystStuart Weisbrod described Regeneron's data as "impressive."Weisbrod projected that Regeneron would break even in 1995and earn $3.50 per share in 1996 on product sales of $200million.

Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Regeneron plans to file aninvestigational new drug application by mid-1992 to beginclinical trials of CNTF. Rival Synergen Inc. plans to file two INDsin the first half of the year for Phase I/II trials of CNTF in ALSpatients and for peripheral neuropathies associated withchemotherapy.

Synergen has two issued patents on CNTF, for DNA sequencesand methods of making CNTF, and for purification of CNTF fromnatural sources. Regeneron has applied for a patent.

Regeneron shares (NASDAQ:REGN) closed down 50 cents at $20.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.