Shaman Pharmaceuticals Inc. has filed its first applicationwith the Food and Drug Administration for an investigationalnew drug, an anti-viral isolated from a medicinal plant.

The company, which specializes in drugs developed fromtropical plants with a history of folk use, expects to startPhase I trials of the new compound, SP303, this fall. Shaman'sfirst target will be respiratory syncytial virus, a childhooddisease.

The San Carlos, Calif., company is also pursuing developmentof SP303 against influenza virus and parainfluenza, and topicaladministration to treat herpes 1 and 2.

Lisa Conte, president and chief executive officer, estimates a$140 million U.S. market for SP303 to treat respiratorysyncytial virus and a $1 billion world market to treatrespiratory diseases and herpes virus.

The company has several patent applications, including one onan anti-fungal. Shaman is also holding discussions withpotential corporate partners.

Although the company's name is exotic, the product concept isnot: 25 percent of drugs used in the United States are derivedfrom plants, said Conte. What is unique to Shaman is the ideaof giving back some of the profits to local communities whereplants are found.

Shaman ethnobotanists initially identify plants, inconsultation with local people. Once commercial quantities ofa plant are needed, Shaman pays local communities to harvestthe plants, rather than taking the plants and growing themelsewhere, Conte said.The company currently is acquiring its raw material fromeight countries in Latin and South America, primarily Peru andEcuador.

Shaman plans to donate a percentage of its profits to theHealing Forest Conservancy, a non-profit entity the companyset up to preserve rain forest diversity and aid indigenouspeoples.

Shaman is seeking $4 million in a second round of financing,according Rozanne Rapozo, vice president and chief executiveofficer. The company was formed in May 1989 and raised $4million in a first venture round in April 1990. First-roundinvestors Delphi Bioventures, Technology Funding and ElfTechnologies own slightly more than half of the company;employees own the rest.

Conte has a master's degree in physiology and pharmacologyfrom the University of California, San Diego, coupled with anMBA from Dartmouth.

Michael Tampesta, an organic chemist formerly in thedepartment of chemistry at the University of Missouri, is vicepresident of chemistry and discovery. Larry Meyerson, whospent 11 years at Lederle Laboratories, is vice president ofpharmacology.

Steven King is vice president for ethnobotany and conservation.Prior to joining Shaman, he worked at the Nature Conservancyand The New York Botanical Garden. Gianfranco Rutili, formerlymedical director with Pharmacia AB in Sweden, is vicepresident for development.

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

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