Medivir: Proof of Principle in Research on Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

Huddinge, SWEDEN

HUDDINGE, Sweden, May 29, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- Medivir and Peptimmune jointly announced today that, an orally active, small molecule inhibitor of the protease enzyme Cathepsin S, suppresses the development of chronic relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (CR EAE) in an animal model of the human autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis (MS).

Oral dosing of the inhibitor in mice reduced both the severity and incidence of the neurological symptoms of CR EAE without any apparent signs of toxicity. This independent study at the William Harvey Research Institute, St. Bartholomew's and Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry demonstrates a promising use for small molecule protease inhibitors in the treatment of MS.

The results build on previously reported data from an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), suggesting that an inhibitor of Cathepsin S offers a novel approach to the treatment of both MS and RA.

Currently approved drugs help to ameliorate the symptoms of MS and RA rather than halting the autoimmune reaction that is the underlying cause of the disease. For both MS and RA there is a large unmet medical need for new treatments that can stop the progression of these debilitating diseases.

Cathepsin S is a protease (protein degrading enzyme) that plays a significant role in the activation of certain immune responses. Previous in vitro studies have shown that inhibitors of Cathepsin S prevent or reduce activation of T helper cells. Results from this and previously reported studies demonstrate that Cathepsin S inhibitors can also prevent the activation of immune responses in vivo. Potential clinical applications of the inhibitors include controlling the initiation and/or progression of immune system disorders such as RA, MS, asthma and organ/graft rejection.

Medivir and Peptimmune have a joint-venture program to develop Cathepsin S inhibitor drugs currently in the pre-clinical optimization phase. The program includes a license to the intellectual property rights to Cathepsin S as a therapeutic target from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Medivir/Peptimmune have also filed patent applications for a family of potent lead compounds against Cathepsin S. These lead compounds were developed using Medivir's proprietary technologies for inhibitor design. An extensive library of structure-activity data encompassing thousands of compounds has been created. These data, together with structural information from a number of high-resolution X- ray crystal structures of the enzyme, have enabled rapid progress to advanced lead inhibitors.

About the Medivir group

Medivir is an innovative and specialized research company active in the pharmaceuticals sphere, located in Cambridge, U.K., and Huddinge, Sweden. Medivir's research focuses on the development of new pharmaceutical compounds as inhibitors of target enzymes with protease or polymerase activity.

The group comprises Medivir AB, the subsidiaries Medivir UK Ltd. and CCS AB, plus second-tier subsidiaries CCS (U.K.) Ltd. and Nordic Care Sweden AB. Medivir has been listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange since 1996.

The research portfolio includes projects against HIV, jaundice, shingles, cold sores, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis and organ/graft rejection.

Medivir has four projects in clinical development. Of these, two are moving towards Phase III trials after having completed Phase II trials. One is in Phase I and one is in Phase II.

Medivir's pre-clinical research encompasses a number of projects, of which one is on its way towards and two are in the lead optimization phase and one is in the late pre-clinical research stage. Furthermore, ten activities are in the explorative stage.

For more information about Medivir, visit the company's web site at

About Peptimmune

Peptimmune is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genzyme Corporation based in Cambridge, MA, U.S.A. Peptimmune is developing specific immunology therapies for the treatment of autoimmune and allergic diseases. These potential treatments are expected to be safer and more effective than the conventional immunosuppressive agents currently in use.

Peptimmune's lead program is a peptide vaccine for the treatment of the human autoimmune disease pemphigus vulgaris.

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including statements concerning: a potential therapy for RA and MS; other potential indications for Cathepsin S inhibitors; and the anticipated benefits of potential treatments being developed by Peptimmune. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in these forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include: the results of development efforts; the safety and efficacy of products in humans; decisions made by regulatory authorities; and the risks and uncertainties described in Genzyme Corporation's reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including Exhibit 99.2 to Genzyme's 2001 Annual Report on Form 10-K. We caution investors not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements contained in this press release. These statements speak only as of the date of this press release and we undertake no obligation to update or revise these statements.

Genzyme(R) is a registered trademark of Genzyme Corporation. All rights reserved.

For further information, please contact:

Jonas Frick, CEO, Medivir, +46 8 608 3117 or Rein Piir, CFO/VP IR, 
Medivir, +46 8 608 3123, +46 708 53 7292

James Rasmussen, VP and CSO, Peptimmune, 617-591-5555 Tim Harris,
VP and COO, Peptimmune, 617-591-5555

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