• Ablynx NV, of Ghent, Belgium, said it was awarded a €1.855 million (US$2.6 million) grant from the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders. The grant will allow Ablynx to accelerate exploration of new therapeutic applications for its Nanobody technology platform. Work will be conducted in collaboration with research groups at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and academic collaborators in Belgium, Norway, Germany, the UK, Spain and France.

• Argenta Discovery Ltd., of Harlow, UK, entered a fee-for-service contract drug discovery collaboration with CellCentric Ltd., of Cambridge, UK. The companies will utilize Argenta's screening and assay technologies to discover inhibitors for two potential epigenetic-related therapeutic targets. Terms were not disclosed.

• Avecia Biologics Ltd., of Tees Valley, UK, and Renovo Group plc, of Manchester, UK, entered an agreement for process development and manufacture of Renovo's developmental product, Prevascar, a therapeutic formulation of human recombinant interleukin-10 (IL-10). Under the deal, Avecia will carry out development work to optimize the drug manufacturing process and scale-up and will conduct further cGMP manufacture of IL-10 in Avecia's biologics facilities, with the goal of providing Prevascar in quantities to support ongoing trials. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Basilea Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, submitted a marketing authorization application to Swissmedic for alitretinoin in severe refractory chronic hand eczema. The company previously filed for marketing approval in various European Union member states. In other news, the company also appointed Hans Christian Rohde as global head of commercial operations.

• BioBase GmbH, of Wolfenbuttel, Germany, and Integrated Genomics Inc., of Chicago, entered a collaboration to expand and curate Integrated Genomics' ERGO microbial genomic database. BioBase scientists in Bangalore, India, will add manually curated functional gene annotations and pathways to the database. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• BioLineRx Ltd., of Jerusalem, has signed a worldwide exclusive license agreement with Yeda Research and Development Company Ltd., of Rehovot, Israel, the technology transfer company of the Weizmann Institute of Science, to develop and commercialize BL-4050, a peptide for treating cancer. Financial terms were not disclosed. BL-4050 specifically attacks malignant cells, disrupting their membranes and inducing cell death. It is expected that mechanism of action may lead to lower levels of toxicity and resistance than current therapies. In addition, BioLineRx said BL-4050 is expected to have a wide spectrum of activity against many cancer types and has been shown effective in in vivo testing.

• Bionas GmbH, of Rostock, Germany, has signed a service contract with Solvay Pharmaceuticals GmbH, of Hanover, Germany, covering the metabolic profiling of several drug candidates identified in the context of Solvay s obesity research program. Financial details were not disclosed. Solvay will use the Bionas 2500 analyzing system to monitor both acute and chronic effects of drug candidates in different cell types.

• Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, reported the discovery of a set of 21 human monoclonal antibodies against H5N1. All were found to be able to neutralize the H5N1 virus of avian influenza, with the most potent shown to neutralize a broad range of H5N1 strains that emerged between 1997 and 2004. In addition, that antibody prevents flu, in preclinical models when given 24 hours before a challenge with a lethal dose of H5N1 virus. Those findings were presented at the bird flu meeting in Las Vegas.

• CSL Ltd., of Parkville, Australia, received FDA approval Friday for Afluria, a seasonal influenza vaccine for the immunization of people ages 18 and older. Afluria is intended to protect adults from influenza type A and type B flu viruses. The approval brings to six the number of seasonal influenza manufacturers licensed for the U.S. market. Afluria was approved using the FDA's accelerated approval pathway for serious or life-threatening diseases, which reduces the time for needed medical products to become available to the public. As part of the accelerated approval process, CSL will conduct further studies to verify that the vaccine decreases seasonal influenza disease after vaccination.

• Cytheris SA, of Paris, initiated a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of its recombinant interleukin-7, CYT107, in HIV-infected patients. The trial is being conducted at sites in France, Italy, Canada and the U.S. and follows the completion of successful Phase I/IIa trials of CYT107 in hepatitis C and cancer. CYT107 is a growth factor that helps rebuild the immune system and enhances the global and specific immune response.

• Eisai Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, and TorreyPines Therapeutics Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., extended for one year their research agreement focused on genetics of Alzheimer's disease. Eisai's has been supporting the research at TorreyPines since 2001. The agreement focuses on discovery of Alzheimer's disease targets using whole-genome family-based association screening. A separate agreement focuses on the discovery of novel compounds to treat Alzheimer's disease. In connection with the extension, TorreyPines will receive an up-front payment and continued research funding. Eisai retained exclusive rights of first negotiation and refusal for gene targets discovered and validated through the research.

• Evogene Ltd., of Rehovot, Israel, and Monsanto Co., of St. Louis, entered a collaboration to improve nitrogen use efficiency in corn, soybeans, canola and cotton. Monsanto got exclusive rights to a number of genes discovered by Evogene that are believed to help plants maintain yield with lower applications of nitrogen. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• Flynn Pharma Ltd., of Hitchin, UK, acquired exclusive marketing and distribution rights to DepoDur (morphine sulphate extended release liposome injection) for Europe and a number of other markets from Pacira Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego. DepoDur is an extended-release formulation of morphine marketed in the U.S. by EKR Therapeutics Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• Galapagos NV, of Mechelen, Belgium, and ProStrakan Group plc, of Galashiels, UK, said they achieved the third milestone under Galapagos' collaboration with Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland, related to antibodies for bone-related diseases. The undisclosed milestone triggered a payment of $1.5 million to Galapagos, of which about $1.13 million will go to ProStrakan as part of their December 2006 agreement. The collaboration initially was formed between Novartis and ProSkelia SASU (formerly a subsidiary of ProStrakan). The collaboration then transferred to Galapagos as part of its acquisition of ProSkelia from ProStrakan, which is entitled to 75 percent of milestone and royalty income from deals in place at the time.

• GammaCan International Inc., of Kiryat Ono, Israel, signed a second plasma supply agreement, under which DCI Biologicals Inc. will collect plasma from vitiligo donors for the manufacture of VitiGam, the company's lead product for Stage III and Stage IV melanoma. As part of that deal, GammaCan amended the exclusive plasma supply agreement with Clarkston, Ga.-based Life Therapeutics Inc. to nonexclusive. The company also is in discussions with additional plasma suppliers and anticipates signing at least one additional vitiligo plasma supply agreement. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Genomatix Software GmbH, of Munich, Germany, said Sanofi-Aventis, of Paris, renewed its licenses for multisite access to Genomatix microarray products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• Keygene NV, of Wageningen, the Netherlands, signed an agreement with UK-based D1 Oils plc for molecular genetics research in Jatropha curcas, an oilseed tree that grows in tropical and subtropical regions and produces high yields of inedible vegetable oil that can be refined into high-quality biodiesel. The two-year deal provides D1 with exclusive rights on applied contract research and molecular services carried out by Keygene.

• Onyvax Ltd., of London, said a Phase IIb clinical trial of its prostate cancer vaccine, Onyvax-P, has started at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. The trial, being conducted under Onyvax's investigational new drug application, is evaluating 44 patients who have a rising Prostate-Specific Antigen level after localized therapy of their primary prostate cancer. The trial is a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study with patients receiving three months of Zoladex androgen deprivation therapy followed by 15 administrations of vaccine or placebo over 12 months.

• Protherics plc, of London, signed a licensing agreement granting the Korean firm Myungmoon Pharma Co. Ltd. rights to develop anti-inflammatory products using Protherics' sustained-release ReGel delivery system. Protherics will receive a "small" up-front payment and royalties on any resulting sales in Korea. Protherics also has an option to gain rights outside Korea to any products developed under the agreement. Myungmoon said it planned to develop products for arthritis and potentially other indications. In other news, Protherics has licensed its CoVaccine HT adjuvant for use in pandemic influenza vaccines and seasonal influenza vaccines in the elderly, to Nobilon International BV, a unit of Akzo Nobel NV, of Oss, the Netherlands. The licensing agreement gives Nobilon exclusive global rights, excluding the U.S., to develop, manufacture and commercialize two new influenza vaccines containing CoVaccine HT. Protherics will receive an up-front payment from Nobilon on signing the agreement, and also is entitled to receive success-related milestone payments and royalty payments on net sales by Nobilon. Separately, Nobilon and a consortium of European vaccine experts has received a €3.5 million grant to help fund the development of a pandemic influenza vaccine containing CoVaccine HT.

• Recordati SpA, of Milan, Italy, said it is acquiring pharmaceutical firm Orphan Europe, of Paris, for €135 million (US$192 million), which will be funded mostly from existing liquidity. The deal, subject to certain conditions, including clearance by the relevant anti-trust authorities, is expected to be completed before the end of 2007. Orphan Europe, a firm that develops treatments for rare and orphan diseases, reported 2006 sales of €40 million (US$59 million).

• Sloning BioTechnology GmbH, of Puchheim, Germany, said it has successfully synthesized a unique gene mutant library, called SlonoMax - Screen, for Novozymes A/S, of Franklin, N.C. Sloning used its Slonomics gene synthesis technology to introduce several individual codons at specific positions of a gene sequence in a clearly defined ratio. Novozymes will use the library for screening applications to identify enzymes with significantly improved characteristics.

• Stem Cell Sciences plc, of Edinburgh, UK, said it is to lead Neuroscreen, a European Union-funded drug screening collaboration, using stem SCS's proprietary neural stem. The project is worth €2.4 million over three years, of which SCS will get about €420,000. The program involves designing bioassays which will then be used to discover new candidates for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and epilepsy.

• Sysmex Corp., of Kobe, Japan, and Matritech Inc., of Newton, Mass., mutually agreed to terminate their 2002 agreement under which Sysmex was granted an exclusive, worldwide license to Matritech's NMP 179 cervical cancer technology for automated, nonslide-based laboratory instruments. The development of an automated process of screening cervical cell specimens by combining that technology with flow cytometry also was discontinued, and all rights licensed in the deal revert to Matritech. The move follows last month's news that Inverness Medical Innovations Inc., of Waltham, Mass., will acquire Matritech's assets for $36 million in stock.

• Transgene SA, of Strasbourg, France, initiated a Phase I trial in Canada of its therapeutic vaccine candidate TG4040 on patients suffering from chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) who have relapsed after standard treatment with ribavirin and pegylated-interferon alpha. Preliminary viral and immunological data will be available at the end of 2008. The trial is being sponsored by the University of Montreal and is supported by the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapies. Another Phase I trial of TG4040 is under way in France on HCV patients who have never received any other therapy. Preliminary results of that trial are due at the end of this year.

• Trophos, of Marseille, France, initiated a Phase Ib trial of its lead compound, TRO19622, in the indication of juvenile spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). It is being conducted at three centers in France on 20 patients ages 6-25 suffering from Type 1b-3 SMA. TRO19622 already has completed a Phase I/Ib trial in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease), for which it has been granted orphan drug status in both Europe and the U.S., and Trophos plans to conduct a pivotal Phase II/III trial of the product in the indication. The drug has other potential therapeutic applications, moreover, since Trophos currently is enrolling patients for a Phase IIa trial in the indication of diabetic neuropathy.

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