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Feasibility of a Cocaine Vaccine

Source: PR Newswire

WALTHAM, Mass., Oct. 1, 1996 /PRNewswire/ via Individual Inc. -- ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corporation (Nasdaq: IMUL) today reported in Nature Medicine new research that establishes the feasibility of a therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of cocaine addiction. Company scientists and their colleagues at Boston University demonstrated for the first time that antibodies against cocaine can extinguish drug-seeking behavior for cocaine in an animal model of addiction. The vaccine that induces anti-cocaine antibodies was effective at minimizing passage of cocaine into the brain in animals receiving intravenous administration of cocaine, a route comparable to that used by human abusers of the drug. The vaccine was also effective against multiple doses of cocaine.

ImmuLogic scientist and lead author of the publication, Barbara Fox, Ph.D., commented, "Our results confirm the potential of a cocaine vaccine as a valuable new tool in the treatment of cocaine addiction. To consider the vaccine feasible for development as a human therapeutic, it was important to show that the vaccine was effective when cocaine was administered in a clinically relevant manner, that it modified behavior, and that vaccine- induced antibody levels were sufficient to minimize the passage of cocaine into the brain. We are pleased to report that we have accomplished all of these objectives, and plan to move this vaccine into the clinic in 1997."

Dr. Fox added, "A cocaine vaccine will provide a powerful new tool for the treatment of this serious addiction. The vaccine is intended to be used in humans to prevent relapse as part of a comprehensive treatment program."

The U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates that 2.1 million people in the United States use cocaine on a weekly basis, and several hundred thousand use it daily. Approximately 400,000 patients seek medical treatment for cocaine abuse on a yearly basis in the U.S. Although there has been some success in treating heroin and alcohol addiction by pharmacological and behavioral means, no effective treatment currently exists for cocaine addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has identified cocaine addiction as a life-threatening condition and recently awarded ImmuLogic an SBIR grant to complete preclinical development of the vaccine.

The ImmuLogic researchers first investigated the ability of mouse anti- cocaine antibodies to inhibit drug-seeking behavior in a model of addiction. In this model, shown to accurately predict the likelihood that a drug will be abused in humans, rats are trained to self-administer intravenous doses of cocaine at will. Varying the dose of cocaine given to the rats in each mission leads to a steep dose-response curve for the animal's behavioral response to the drug and the rate of drug infusion. In rats subsequently treated with anti-cocaine antibodies, both the response rate and the infusion rate decreased, but remain unaffected in rats receiving a control antibody.

ImmuLogic's cocaine vaccine consists of a cocaine derivative chemically joined to a vaccine carrier protein. The vaccine induced high titers of cocaine-specific antibodies in mice, which persisted for months. Mice immunized with the cocaine vaccine and then challenged with the drug showed decreased levels of cocaine in their brains only 30 seconds after intravenous administration of the drug. Repeat administration of cocaine to immunized mice did not appear to alter the antibody's beneficial effect on cocaine distribution.

Anti-cocaine antibodies induced in animals can block the entry of cocaine into the brain and thus reduce the ability of directly injected cocaine to increase motor stimulation. Until now, however, questions remained whether this approach could reduce drug-seeking behavior and thereby, the drug's addictive potential. In addition, it remained unknown until now whether the antibodies maintained their effect upon repeated cocaine administration.

ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company, located in Waltham, Massachusetts, developing peptide therapeutics to treat allergies and autoimmune diseases. ALLERVAX(R) products to treat cat and ragweed allergies are in clinical development. ImmuLogic's lead autoimmune candidate for the treatment of multiple sclerosis is nearing completion of preclinical development. In addition to treatments for allergies and autoimmune diseases, the Company is developing a poison ivy/poison oak therapeutic and a vaccine to treat cocaine abuse.

SOURCE ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corporation

/CONTACT: Susan Primrose, Director of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications of ImmuLogic, 617-466-6000/ (IMUL)

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