Paris-based artificial intelligence specialist Iktos said it will use generative modeling technology to design new optimized compounds and speed up the identification of promising drug candidates for one or more undisclosed drug discovery programs at Barcelona, Spain-based Almirall SA. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Assertio Therapeutics Inc., of Lake Forest, Ill., said New Jersey-based Alvogen Inc. will pay $127.5 million for Gralise (gabapentin), a medicine used to treat postherpetic neuralgia. The deal is comprised of a $75 million cash payment upon closing and royalty payments on the first $70 million in Gralise net sales. It's is expected to close in early January 2020.

Emergex Vaccines Holding Ltd., of Abingdon, England, said it has completed the first step in the development of a candidate vaccine for the gram-negative intracellular coccobacillus, Francisella tularensis, marking the first time its technology has been successfully applied in the creation of a bacterial vaccine candidate.

Pittsburgh-based insurer Highmark Inc. and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, of Ingelheim, Germany, announced a new value-based contract for Boehringer's Stiolto Respimat (tiotropium bromide and olodaterol) inhalation spray for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The contract links reimbursement to patient outcomes. Using the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guideline-based care as a benchmark, Highmark will evaluate whether Stiolto Respimat reduces the total cost for both in-patient and out-patient COPD care for members compared to the costs for members who use other drugs to treat the condition.

Ico Therapeutics Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, said it engaged ophthalmic contract research organization CRO Ora Inc., of Andover, Mass., to assist with the ophthalmic regulatory and development strategy for eotaxin ligand inhibitor iCo-008 (bertilimumab). The companies will seek to meet with the FDA prior to initiating a phase II trial to establish a development pathway for the treatment of severe ocular allergic diseases. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Kazia Therapeutics Ltd., of Sydney, said its lead program, GDC-0084, was selected to join GBM AGILE, an international, academic-led, multidrug adaptive phase II/III study in glioblastoma. It is expected that data from GBM AGILE will be used to seek marketing approval for GDC-0084 from the FDA and other regulatory agencies. Kazia has entered a preliminary agreement to commence planning and set-up activities for inclusion of GDC-0084 in GBM AGILE, with a view to commencing recruitment in the second or third quarter of 2020.

Midatech Pharma plc, of London, said it has received confirmation of a €2.6 million (US$2.9 million) EU grant to be used to conduct a study designed to demonstrate the efficacy of MTX-110 as a treatment for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a rare and fatal form of childhood brain cancer. The candidate is an intratumoral liquid formulation of the oral histone deacetylase inhibitor panobinostat, with its API licensed from Novartis AG. It contains a panobinostat-hydroxypropyl-B-cyclodextrin complex, based on the company's Midasolve nano-inclusion technology. The funds, from the European Innovation Council, are subject to finalization of the grant agreement, a process anticipated to conclude in early 2020, Midatech said. After that, the company is planning an open-label trial of about 20 patients with a one-year treatment period. MTX-110 was granted FDA orphan status for the treatment of malignant glioma in October.

Miragen Therapeutics Inc., of Boulder, Colo., said it's further streamlining operations and reallocating its existing resources in a bid to fund its operations into the fourth quarter of 2020 as it pursues data from a modified phase II trial of cobomarsen in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma aimed at delivering data in 2020. The development is a change from August, when the company expected cobomarsen data would be delayed until 2021. At that time, it was also restructuring to cut costs in the wake of Les Laboratoires Servier SAS pulling support for MRG-110 for heart failure after a strategic review at the French pharma. The new plan includes an expected consultation with the FDA to define a development path for cobomarsen in adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma and a focus on future pipeline development efforts primarily on MRG-229, a second generation miR-29 mimic and potential treatment in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Oncolys Biopharma Inc., of Tokyo, said it has received the first milestone tied to licensing its oncolytic viral immunotherapy, telomelysin, to Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. by meeting preset criteria in ongoing trials. The ¥500 million (US$4.6 million) milestone payment is the first to be made by Chugai to Oncolys as part of the deal. The pair signed an agreement in April giving Chugai an exclusive license, with sublicensing rights, concerning the development, manufacturing and marketing in Japan and Taiwan for telomelysin in exchange for a ¥550 million up-front payment to Oncolys.

SPL Medical BV, of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, said the first patient has been successfully diagnosed with suspected lymph node metastases of prostate cancer using its contrast agent with Ferrotran (ferumoxtran). The success follows approval of the agent by Swissmedic to Universitätsspital Zurich, Institut für Diagnostische und Interventionelle Radiologie, for restricted use under a compassionate use program.

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