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RIBI IMMUNOCHEM RESEARCH: MPL IMPROVES HEPATITIS B VACCINE PROTECTION IN ADVANCED HUMAN CLINICAL STUDIES

 HAMILTON, Mont., Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- MPL(R) immunostimulant improved the performance of Engerix(R)-B, according to data from two advanced human clinical trials presented at a recent scientific conference, Ribi ImmunoChem Research Inc. (NASDAQ: RIBI) announced today.
 MPL immunostimulant is a product of Ribi ImmunoChem. Engerix-B is a commercially available hepatitis B vaccine with more than $500 million in annual sales.
 The results were presented at the 33rd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) Oct. 17-20 in New Orleans. In one study, 100 percent of healthy volunteers who received Engerix-B + MPL had protective antibody levels two months after the second dose, as compared with 58 percent in a group receiving Engerix-B alone. Three doses of Engerix-B alone over a six-month period, the currently recommended immunization schedule for all commercially available hepatitis B vaccines, were required to achieve protective antibody titres in 100 percent of volunteers in that group. In the other study, 96 percent of the volunteers in the Engerix-B + MPL group had protective levels one month after the second dose as compared with 73 percent in the group receiving Engerix-B alone. Engerix-B + MPL was tolerated well in both trials, confirming the safety of MPL demonstrated in previous human studies.
 Hepatitis B is a major health problem, with over 300 million carriers worldwide. Infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) can result in liver damage, liver cancer and death. After tobacco use, HBV is the second leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Recombinant hepatitis B vaccines are in widespread use in developed countries among healthcare workers (HBV is a blood-borne virus) and children. Engerix-B enjoys a significant share of a market estimated to be over $1 billion in annual sales.
 "If further clinical testing of MPL in Engerix-B confirms that a two- dose regimen is protective, Engerix-B should gain a significant competitive advantage," said Robert E. Ivy, chief executive officer, president and chairman of Ribi ImmunoChem Research Inc. "A two-dose regimen of Engerix-B with MPL, rather than the current three-dose regimen, would lower immunization costs and increase patient compliance. This would fit in very well with the Clinton administration's emphasis on cost-effective preventive medicine, especially in childhood vaccinations. In 1991, the U.S. Public Health Service Immunization Practices Advisory Committee recommended universal vaccination of infants against hepatitis B."
 Ribi ImmunoChem has licensed to SmithKline Beecham (SB) the right to use MPL in SB's Engerix-B hepatitis B vaccine as well as in other viral and bacterial diseases. SB currently has vaccines incorporating MPL in human clinical testing for hepatitis B, herpes, Lyme disease and malaria and is actively developing a new generation of combination pediatric vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae B (meningitis) and polio. Under the license agreement, Ribi will manufacture MPL for SB and will receive transfer payments and royalties on sales once a vaccine incorporating MPL is commercialized. Ribi also has a pending license agreement for its adjuvants with Lederle-Praxis Biologicals, another leading vaccine producer. SmithKline Beecham and Lederle-Praxis Biologicals account for one-third of all vaccine sales worldwide.
 SmithKline Beecham is one of the world's leading health care companies, with principal activities including the discovery, manufacture and marketing of both human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medicines and health-related consumer brands as well as clinical laboratory testing.
 Ribi ImmunoChem Research Inc., a biopharmaceutical company founded in 1981, is a leader in the development of immunostimulants for use in preventing and treating human diseases.
 -0- 11/2/93
 /CONTACT: Jeffrey S. McDowell, corporate information manager, 406-363-6214, ext. 153/
 (RIBI)


CO: Ribi ImmunoChem Research Inc. ST: Montana IN: MTC SU: LIC

JH -- SE002 -- 9479 11/02/93 08:05 EST
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