• Agilent Technologies Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., entered an agreement for Strand Life Sciences, of Bangalore, India, to develop its GeneSpring software. The deal expands on an existing relationship between Stratagene Corp., of Cedar Creek, Texas, and Strand. Stratagene was acquired by Agilent in June. In separate news, Agilent and partner Kreatech Biotechnology BV, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, launched labeling kits to enable oligo microarray comparative genomic hybridization analysis of DNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue samples. Kreatech licensed its labeling technology to Agilent last month.

• Bayer AG, of Leverkusen Germany, and Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Wayne, N.J., said the FDA has granted priority review for Nexavar (sorafenib) as a treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. The drug already is approved in 50 countries to treat advanced kidney cancer. The FDA generally makes an approval decision on drugs that receive priority-review status within six months.

• Biopartners Holdings AG, of Baar, Switzerland, submitted a marketing authorization application for Biferonex (interferon beta-1a), a pH neutral and human serum albumin-free formulation, to the European regulatory agency for treating patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. The Biferonex HAS-free formulation is designed to minimize the risk of injection-site reactions and has demonstrated a low incidence of neutralizing antibodies.

• Can-Fite BioPharma Ltd., of Petach Tikva, Israel, said it successfully completed preclinical trials with CF102 and plans to submit an application with the FDA to begin Phase I trials. The product binds to the A3 adenosine receptor, which is overexpressed on the cell surface of liver cancer cells. Laboratory studies have shown that CF102 induces apoptosis of liver cancer cells, Can-Fite said. The nucleoside agent also may have applicability for hepatitis virus, it said.

• Enzon Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Bridgewater, N.J., raised $92.5 million by selling to Drug Royalty Corp. Inc. a 25 percent interest in its royalties from sales of the hepatitis drug Pegintron (peginterferon alfa-2b, Schering-Plough Corp.). Enzon may receive an additional $15 million milestone payment in 2012 if Pegintron meets certain royalty levels. The majority of the proceeds from the royalty sale will be used to retire Enzon's $81.9 million in convertible debt due in 2008. Pegintron uses Enzon's PEGylation technology, as do marketed drugs Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.) and Macugen (pegaptanib sodium, OSI Pharmaceutical Inc.), both of which Enzon also collects royalties on.

• ImClone Systems Inc., of New York, said it received FDA approval for a second facility to manufacture its cancer drug Erbitux, which is expected to more than double the company's total available production volume capacity for the drug. The facility, located on the firm's Branchburg, N.J. campus, was completed in late 2005 and is designed with three suites: one for production of Erbitux and two others for production of additional ImClone products or third-party products.

• Lpath Inc., of San Diego, reported that no safety concerns were identified in a study of Sphingomab, a monoclonal antibody against the bioactive lipid sphingosine-1-phosphate. The safety tests included cardiovascular studies in Cynomolgus monkeys and tests to evaluate the potential of the antibody to elicit the release of cytokines or an antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity reaction. The cardiovascular study included evaluation of the effect of humanized Sphingomab treatment on blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate.

• Metabasis Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, presented results from a preclinical study of MB07811, a liver-targeted, beta-subtype-selective thyroid hormone receptor agonist being evaluated in a clinical trial for treating hyperlipidemia. Results provided evidence that in normal rats, MB07811 significantly reduced serum cholesterol at doses devoid of effects on the heart and the thyroid hormone axis, the company said. Data were presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Boston.

• Oscient Pharmaceuticals Corp., of Waltham, Mass., reported that it had fallen below the $50 million minimum required for continued listing on the Nasdaq Global Market. The firm, which markets Antara (fenofibrate), a treatment for high blood pressure, and Factive (gemifloxacin mesylate) an anti-infective for bronchitis and pneumonia, has until Sept. 17 to regain compliance by achieving a $50 million market value for 10 consecutive business days.

• PeriCor Therapeutics Inc., of New York, said its licensing agreement for acadesine with Kenilworth, N.J.-based Schering-Plough Corp. became effective. That deal, announced last month, grants Schering-Plough exclusive, worldwide rights for the development and commercialization of acadesine, which is in Phase III development as an intravenous infusion for the prevention of adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular outcomes that occur as complications associated with ischemia-reperfusion injury in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Financial terms were not disclosed. (See BioWorld Today, July 20, 2007.)

• Quark Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Fremont, Calif., expanded its relationship with the Center for Hearing & Deafness at the State University of New York at Buffalo, which is the company's primary site for preclinical studies of AHLi-11 for acute hearing loss. Quark initiated its collaboration with the university in 2005. Current studies are focused on analyzing the effect of AHLi-11 and other molecules in preventing chemotherapy-induced hearing loss, and based on those studies, the company expects to file an investigational new drug application sometime this year in that indication. AHLi-11 is a siRNA-based drug designed to temporarily inhibit the expression of human gene p53.

• Tikvah Therapeutics Inc., of Atlanta, said the FDA granted orphan drug status to sodium phenylbutyrate for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy. Sodium phenylbutyrate, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, is approved to treat urea cycle deficiency. Research has shown the product can increase the level of the SMN protein. Tikvah said about 95 percent of those with SMA have genetic mutations that cause a deficiency of the SMN protein. Findings from in vitro studies and pilot clinical work suggested that phenylbutyrate treatment in SMA patients may improve motor function, the company said.

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