11:36 a.m. ET (1650 GMT) December 6, 1999
NEEDHAM, Mass., Dec 6 - AstraZeneca Plc has dropped development of a multiple sclerosis treatment, saying it failed to work well enough, according to Avant Immunotherapeutics Inc., which licensed out the technology.
The treatment, known as ATM-027, was designed to block part of the body's immune system, which some believe attacks the lining around nerve fibers and causes multiple sclerosis.
The disease affects roughly 400,000 Americans, and can result in permanent loss of motor skills and partial blindness.
Avant, based in Massachusetts, licensed AstraZeneca the technology to develop and commercialize the treatment in 1996. The company said the technology was about 16 years old and was not included in current revenue projections.
While results from a European Phase II trial of ATM-027 showed it was safe and well tolerated, AstraZeneca felt that the reduction of disease activity in the study "did not reach a level that would be of value for those patients,'' Avant said in a prepared statement.
Avant currently has no directly marketed drugs or medicines in late-stage development.
AstraZeneca will consider using Avant technology to develop a vaccine for multiple sclerosis under terms of an existing agreement, Avant said.
Shares of Avant eased about 1/4 to 2-3/16 early Nasdaq trade on Monday, but were above a 52-week low of one.
David Brinkerhoff, New York Newsroom, 212-859-1700