• Avexa Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, said a series of in vitro experiments showed that its lead product, ATC, maintains potent antiviral activity against HIV strains that are resistant to integrase inhibitors, including raltegravir, the recently approved integrase inhibitor from Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc. ATC (apricitabine) has completed dosing in a Phase IIb trial, and Avexa anticipates starting a Phase III program by the end of this year.

• Binex Co. Ltd., of Busan, South Korea, and MaxCyte Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., signed a sponsored research agreement to evaluate MaxCyte's GMP-compliant cell-loading technology for use in the closed-system manufacturing of Binex's cell-based cancer immunotherapies. Upon completion of the research studies, the deal provides Binex an option to license MaxCyte's technology for clinical and commercial use in Korea. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Bionovo Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., said a paper published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology provides details of the selective transcriptional activation to the estrogen receptor beta of liquiritigenin, the active ingredient in the company's MF101 candidate. Data also highlighted the advantages of an estrogen receptor beta-targeted drug. MF101 recently completed Phase II testing for hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopausal and menopausal women and is being prepared for a pivotal Phase III program.

• ChemDiv Inc., of San Diego, said it was chosen by Finnish firm Orion Pharma as a discovery partner to deploy its Discovery outSource platform to create small-molecule therapeutics for Orion's targets. ChemDiv will screen designed chemical libraries against Orion's targets, and Orion will select hit series for subsequent lead optimization. Financial terms were not disclosed. The agreement includes options for expanding the partnership.

• Celgene International Sarl, of Boudry, Switzerland, said Revlimid (lenalidomide) was granted orphan drug status by the European Commission in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. That designation provides for regulatory assistance and 10 years of marketing exclusivity upon approval.

• Celsion Corp., of Columbia, Md., signed an option to license worldwide rights to a peptide ligand for targeting drug delivery vehicles to cancer cells. That gives Celsion the exclusive rights to perform scientific and intellectual property due diligence on the ligand and provides the firm with an exclusive license negotiation period. As part of the agreement, Celsion filed patent applications covering the ligand and its use as a targeting agent. Further terms were not disclosed.

• Pfizer Inc., of New York, commenced the cash tender offer for all outstanding shares of Wellesley, Mass.-based Coley Pharmaceutical Group Inc. for $8 per share. The companies announced the acquisition, valued at about $164 million, last month. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 19, 2007.)

• SuperArray Bioscience Corp., of Frederick, Md., entered a license agreement with the Carnegie Institution to develop, manufacture and distribute RNA interference (RNAi)-based gene function and mechanism-of-action research tools. The deal enables SuperArray to offer RNAi-based gene silencing products for gene function studies, including gene-specific small interfering RNA and DNA-based RNAi-expressing short hairpin RNA. SuperArray also will be able to pass on rights to end-use customers in the research field for the performance of DNA-based RNAi. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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