Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc. has acquired worldwidemarketing rights to a series of melatonin analog compoundsthat the company will use to develop drugs for depression,abnormal ovulation and sleep disorders such as jet lag, shiftwork problems and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Interneuron is also developing a hypnotic based on a patentedprocess of combining melatonin and dietary carbohydrates.

The rights were acquired for $25,000 from Whitby ResearchInc., a pharmaceutical subsidiary of the chemical manufacturerEthyl Corp. Whitby will receive sales royalties on any productsthat result.

Melatonin, a hormone synthesized at night by the pineal gland,regulates circadian rhythms, according to Richard Wurtman, aprofessor of neurological science at the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology, who discovered in 1963 thatmelatonin is a hormone. Wurtman is director of MIT's ClinicalResearch Center and helped to found Interneuron to developcommercial products based on melatonin research.

Patents are pending on a series of compounds, 22 of whichhave been found to modulate melatonin in animals.

Interneuron is collecting data on how the compounds affectbrain chemistry and the behavior and physiology of animals.The purpose is to identify which can be used to either block orenhance the effects of melatonin in human clinical trials.

Interneuron plans to begin clinical trials within 12 to 18months, Charles J. Casamento, president and chief executiveofficer, told BioWorld.

The Lexington, Mass., company is funding current developmentefforts from internal sources and is looking for a partner orjoint venture to finance further development and marketing,Casamento said.

Interneuron (NASDAQ:IPIC) raised $10.7 million when it wentpublic in March 1990. It raised another $2.5 million with aprivate placement, and about $3.8 million from warrants. Ifexercised, outstanding warrants would raise an additional $32million, Casamento said. -- Kris Herbst

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