Heptazyme, one of a new generation of ribozyme drugs, will begin phase II trials "as soon as possible" and probably early next year, developers said.
The trials will study dose-ranging and biological markers of the drug's efficacy in chronic hepatitis C patients. Heptazyme will be tested for safety and efficacy on its own, at higher doses than used in previous studies. It will also be tested in combination with interferon.
Developers, Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (CTT) of Boulder, Colorado, USA, have been working with technology incubator Competitive Technologies Inc, on the development and licensing of the drug.
Frank McPike, president of CTT, said: "We continue to be encouraged with the ribozyme technology and the resulting phase I trials. The need for anti-hepatitis C treatment is a global objective."
Meanwhile a second company Vertex Pharmaceuticals, announced details of a new cell-based assay for screening compounds for anti-HCV activity.
Vertex, which has now acquired a US patent for the product, said it was developed in response to the difficulties that scientists have faced in attempting to culture HCV in the laboratory.
The new technology will be used to test potential protease inhibitor drugs.
"The need for anti-hepatitis C treatment is a global objective." Frank McPike.
Vertex chief scientific officer, Dr Vicki Sato, said: "Using recombinant DNA techniques, our researchers have created a fusion protein that, when cut by the hepatitis C NS3-4A serine protease, will alter expression of a reporter gene in a highly quantifiable way.
"This new assay has made it possible to rapidly screen for compounds that may have direct antiviral activity in a cellular environment. Already, we have been able to advance several potent small molecule HCV protease inhibitors into pharmacokinetic evaluation, and we could select a drug development candidate as early as 2001."
Report Copyright: Englemed Health News at http://www.internationalmedicalnews.com