Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Wednesday that ithas exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize a newlydiscovered neurotrophic factor.

Kenneth Nover, Regeneron's treasurer, declined to disclosedetails of the agreement.

Neurotrophin-4, or NT-4, was discovered by researchers at theKarolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The scientists, whoreport their finding in this month's issue of Neuron, isolatedNT-4 DNA sequences from Xenopus frogs and vipers. The geneswere similar, but not identical, to nerve growth factor (NGF),brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3(NT-3). NT-4 promotes nerve survival and regeneration, buthas properties that distinguish it from other neurotrophicfactors, said Nover.

Patent applications have been filed on NT-4, Nover said, addingthat he is unaware of any other group working on it. BothRegeneron and its Karolinska collaborators will develop NT-4.Nover would not comment on whether a human gene encodingNT-4 has been isolated.

Regeneron plans to add NT-4 to its list of neurotrophic factorsin development. The company is pursuing BDNF and NT-3 withAmgen Inc., as well as ciliary neurotrophic factor. CNTF willlikely be developed initially to treat ALS, or Lou Gehrig'sdisease, and BDNF's most likely indications are Parkinson'sdisease and peripheral neuropathies, said Nover. It is too earlyto predict likely indications for NT-3 or NT-4, he said. Thecompany expects to have at least one of its factors in the clinicwithin two years.

Other companies working on these factors include SynergenInc. and California Biotechnology Inc., which are working onCNTF, and Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., which is developingNT-3.

Stock of the Tarrytown, N.Y., company (NASDAQ:REGN) closedup 63 cents to $12.63 on Wednesday.

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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