Alkermes Inc. has received a two-year grant of up to $500,000from the National Institutes of Health to continue developmentof an in vitro model of the human blood-brain barrier.

The grant, which the Cambridge, Mass., company announced onTuesday, was approved under the small business innovationresearch program. Last year, Alkermes (NASDAQ:ALKS)demonstrated the feasibility of creating a functional in vitromodel of the BBB under a Phase I SBIR grant.

The new grant will allow Alkermes to construct laboratorymodels with living human cells, which can be used to study theanatomical and functional aspects of the BBB. Eventually, themodel may prove useful in measuring the ability of drugs toenter the brain, the company said.

"The most important aspect is that we're using human brainendothelial cells," said Richard Pops, Alkermes' president andchief executive officer. "These are quite difficult to culture."

Alkermes is developing two methods of delivering drugs acrossthe BBB for small and large molecules.

Alkermes stock (NASDAQ:ALKS) closed down 25 cents at $15 onTuesday. -- Karen Bernstein

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