• Abraxis Bioscience Inc., of Los Angeles, entered an exclusive licensing agreement with The Scripps Research Institute for worldwide development and commercialization of an epothilone therapeutic for cancer. Epothilones are microtubule-stabilizing agents that bind to the tubulin pathway to inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. Under the terms, Abraxis has rights to 11 potential drug candidates for preclinical evaluation and selection of a lead candidate for clinical development. Financial details were not disclosed.

• Advanced Life Sciences Holdings Inc., of Chicago, began its collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on studies to evaluate cethromycin, the company's late-stage antibiotic, as a treatment for anthrax and other high-priority biodefense agents. The collaboration is part of the government's effort to accelerate research and development of medical countermeasures prior to acquisition of final products under Project BioShield. Earlier this year, Advanced Life Sciences reported positive data showing that cethromycin was effective in preventing inhalation anthrax infection in primates, and the drug has been granted orphan status by the FDA for that indication.

• Apollo Life Sciences, of Sydney, Australia, entered an agreement to produce human Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor (hLIF) for Millipore Corp., of Billerica, Mass. Apollo will use its human cell-expressed protein technology to make the hLIF, which Millipore will sell worldwide to researchers for use in preventing stem cells from differentiating. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

• Avant Immunotherapeutics Inc., of Needham, Mass., has received a letter from Nasdaq stating that for 10 consecutive business days the market value for AVANT's common stock has been below the $50 million minimum requirement for continued listing. The company has until Sept. 14 to regain compliance.

• Medivir AB, of Stockholm, Sweden, has transferred the licensing agreement for the anti-HIV compound MIV-160 from Guangdong Lantai-Viewland Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Shenzhen, China, to Beijing Mefuvir Medicinal Technology Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of one of China's largest condom manufacturers. The company will develop MIV-160 for HIV prophylactic and therapeutic use. MIV-160 belongs to the group of polymerase projects that are administered by its subsidiary Medivir HIV Franchise AB. The royalty rates and other licensing conditions remain the same as with Medivir's former partner, but Medivir returns the right to obtain 4 percent ownership in Guangdong Lantai-Viewland Pharmaceutical and instead receives an equivalent right to obtain a 5 percent ownership in Beijing Mefuvir Medicinal.

• MethylGene Inc., of Montreal, and Pharmion Corp., of Boulder, Colo., said the FDA granted orphan status to their histone deacetylase inhibitor, MGCD0103, for treating Hodgkin's lymphoma. MGCD0103 is an orally administered, isotype-selective HDAC inhibitor that is in Phase I/II combination clinical trials in hematological malignancies and solid tumors, and in four Phase II monotherapy clinical trials in hematological malignancies.

• National Cancer Institute is funding a $15.5 million, five-year initiative to discover, develop and clinically validate cancer biomarkers by targeting the carbohydrate part of a molecule. Seven NCI-funded Tumor Glycome Laboratories are now searching for glycan-based biomarkers for melanoma, and breast, ovarian, lung, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers. Numerous studies comparing normal and tumor cells have shown that changes in the glycan structures of cells correlate with cancer development. Glycans are extremely abundant, but recent advances in technology only now have allowed a systematic study of those structures.

• Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, and Chinese firm C&O Pharmaceutical Technology (Holdings) Ltd. signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding for the exploration of potential business collaborations in the U.S. and China. The companies intend to jointly explore possible areas of cooperation, including sharing information on preclinical and clinical studies, screening and synthesizing new compounds, transferring technology and licensing product candidates. Collaborative discussions initially will focus on two of Optimer's carbohydrate-based product candidates - OPT-88 for osteoarthritis and OPT-822/821 for breast cancer.

• Protox Therapeutics Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, agreed to acquire the HUMxin research program from Medicenna Ventures Inc., a company previously founded by Protox President and CEO Fahar Merchant. The HUMxin program is focused on developing fully humanized fusion proteins based on the Bcl-2 family of proteins. In exchange, Protox agreed to pay Medicenna C$209,680 (US$197,923), half in cash and half in stock.

• Samaritan Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Las Vegas, entered an exclusive licensing agreement with Georgetown University for a patent covering the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), which has led to drug candidates designed to inhibit cancerous tumors, as well as an imaging agent that possibly could distinguish cancerous tumors for a more targeted and improved chemotherapy. Overexpression of PBR has been observed in several cancer types, including brain, breast, colorectal and prostate. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• Sinobiomed Inc., of Shanghai, China, said its subsidiary Shanghai Wanxing Bio-pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. announced initial preclinical results with rhK1, a recombinant human kallikrein. Those studies indicated rhK1 is superior to kallikrein extracted from human sources and may be able to reduce the nerve function barrier caused by ischemic brain infarction, decrease the infarction scope and attenuate cerebral edema. The company plans to seek approval for a clinical trial in ischemic brain infarction.

• WEX Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, said the BC Securities Commission granted a voluntary order precluding management and other insiders from trading Wex shares until the company files its interim financial statements for the quarter ended June 30. The financial statements are in default due to the departure of the company's acting chief financial officer and controller.

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