VimRx Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it has executed a letter ofintent with Raggio-Italgene SpA to develop VimRx's AIDS drug,VimRxyn hypericin, in Italy.

Raggio, an Italian company involved in cancer diagnostics andtherapeutics, will fund and expedite clinical trials. If the drugis approved, Raggio will have the right to co-market VimRxynin Italy, provided it achieves certain sales levels. VimRx willreceive royalties. VimRx of Stamford, Conn., will also marketthe drug in Italy.

Hypericin is a plant derivative from St. John's wort. Accordingto the company, the compound has inhibited the infection ofnormal cells by HIV. VimRx theorizes that the compoundinterferes with the ability of the viral capsid, the central coreof the virus, to open. The capsid contains key viral components,such as genetic material and reverse transcriptase, requiredfor replication.

Last August, VimRx announced that the National Institutes ofHealth would sponsor and administer Phase I trials of VimRxynin the United States. Those trials haven't yet begun.

"The latest we have is that the NIH is very close to giving usthe go-ahead," said Edwin Snape, VimRx's chairman. Snape saidVimRx had been working for the past year to scale upproduction of the drug to commercial quantities, which it hasnow done.

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