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NEW STUDY SHOWS PROMISING APPROACH TO TREATMENT OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

NEW STUDY SHOWS PROMISING APPROACH TO TREATMENT OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
 SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Athena Neurosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATHN), today announced publication of an article, which appears in the March 5 issue of the British journal Nature, reporting the effective use of an antibody to prevent brain inflammation and paralysis in rats suffering from a multiple sclerosis-like disease called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). The finding could ultimately lead to important clinical treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS).
 The most common central nervous system (CNS) disease among young adults in the United States, MS afflicts some 250,000 Americans, typically striking people between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease appears to be more prevalent in women than in men. The neurological damage seen in MS is thought to be a direct result of brain inflammation caused by an abnormal migration of white blood cells, leukocytes, through the blood-brain barrier and into the CNS or brain and spinal cord. While there are no current treatments to prevent MS, available therapies are geared toward relieving its debilitating symptoms.
 The researchers identified a protein which effectively prevented the accumulation of inflammatory white blood cells in the rats' brains by blocking their ability to travel from the bloodstream into the CNS. This protein -- a monoclonal antibody called anti-alpha 4 integrin -- blocked specific receptors which facilitate this migration. In this experiment, EAE was induced in two groups of rats, one treated with the antibody and the other serving as the control. The control group experienced extensive infiltration of white blood cells into the CNS which led to paralysis in these animals. However, in those animals treated with the antibody, inflammatory damage to the brain and spinal cord was effectively inhibited. Anti-alpha 4 integrin completely prevented the development of paralysis in approximately 70 percent of the treated animals, and in those that developed disease, paralysis was both delayed and not as severe.
 "The results strongly support our belief that the neurological damage associated with brain inflammation in MS can be prevented by blocking white blood cell migration," commented Lawrence C. Fritz, Athena's vice president of research.
 Now the challenge before scientists is to extend these findings towards the development of standard treatments for people. "We are very encouraged by these results and plan to move rapidly toward the development of new monoclonal antibody-based treatments for MS. A specific monoclonal antibody has been identified for further development as a potential therapeutic agent for the disease," said John Groom, president and CEO of Athena.
 In both EAE and MS, circulating white blood cells penetrate the blood-brain barrier as part of the inflammatory process and destroy myelin, the insulating covering of nerve fibers. In EAE-afflicted rats, myelin destruction leads to impaired nerve transmission and paralysis. Similarly, in MS, myelin degeneration leads to symptoms which can vary from mild to severe and can include weakness, slurred speech, double vision, incoordination, muscle spasticity or paralysis. Symptoms are often transient, but can be chronic and progressive.
 The paper is entitled, "Prevention of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis by Antibodies Against Alpha 4 Beta 1 Integrin." The authors are Ted A. Yednock, Ph.D., Catherine Cannon, M.A., and Lawrence C. Fritz, Ph.D., of Athena Neurosciences, Inc.; Francisco Sanchez- Madrid, Ph.D., of the Hospital de la Princesa, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid; and Lawrence Steinman, M.D., and Nathan Karin, Ph.D., of Stanford University.
 Athena Neurosciences, Inc., was founded in 1986 to discover, develop and market products to be used primarily by neurologists for the treatment and diagnosis of neurological diseases and disorders. Athena's principal research efforts are directed toward the discovery of products to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's Disease and for the treatment of MS, stroke and head injury. The company plans to initiate clinical trials in 1992 for a product to treat a form of dystonia and has promising products in clinical stages of development for the treatment of epilepsy and for the spasticity associated with MS.
 -0- 3/5/92
 /CONTACT: Lisa Dodge of Athena Neurosciences, 415-877-0900; or Joan Kureczka, 415-821-2413, or Deidre Hogan of GTFH Public Relations, 212-886-3103, both for Athena Neurosciences/
 (ATHN) CO: Athena Neurosciences, Inc. ST: California IN: MTC SU:


GK-SM -- NY027 -- 5398 03/05/92 11:13 EST
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