• Advanced Life Sciences Holdings Inc., of Chicago said its respiratory antibiotic, Cethromycin, was shown to be effective in preventing inhalation anthrax infection. The data came from a primate study in which a 30-day course of oral Cethromycin was 100 percent protective against a lethal dose of inhaled anthrax as compared to the standard of care, Cipro (ciprofloxacin), which demonstrated 90 percent protection. Cethromycin has been granted orphan drug status by the FDA for the prophylactic treatment of inhalation anthrax and is being developed in collaboration with U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. It also is in pivotal Phase III trials for community acquired pneumonia, with data expected in June.

• Artemis Pharmaceuticals GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, and Taconic Farms Inc., of Hudson, N.Y., jointed acquired worldwide rights to the ASKA technology from CGI Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Branford, Conn. The ASKA technology, an approach to in vivo kinase-related drug discovery, is based on the replacement of a normal kinase with a selectively modified kinase, or ASKA (Analogue Sensitive Kinase Allele), in genetically modified mice. Under the terms, Artemis and Taconic are assigned the entire portfolio of ASKA intellectual property rights. Financial details were not disclosed.

• Biogen Idec Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., reported first quarter earnings that fell below analyst expectations, though the company's product sales increased significantly over last year. On a non-GAAP basis, Biogen reported a net income of $202 million, or 59 cents per share, falling just under analysts' estimates of 61 cents per share. On a GAAP basis, the company had a net income of $132 million, or 32 cents per share. First-quarter revenues totaled $716 million and were driven primarily by sales of Avonex (interferon beta-1a), which increased 14 percent over the first quarter of 2006 to $449 million, and Rituxan (rituximab), which rose 13 percent over last year to $207 million. Sales of multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) totaled $48 million for the quarter, with $30 million of that going to Biogen from the company's collaboration with Dublin, Ireland-based Elan Corp. Shares of Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) rose 46 cents Wednesday to close at $48.02.

• Biosite Inc., of San Diego, said that it and Beckman Coulter Inc., of Fullerton, Calif., have amended their merger agreement, with BC now agreeing to purchase all of Biosite's outstanding common stock for $90 per share ($1.67 billion total), or $5 above BC's previous offer. The new offer matches the price offered previously by Inverness Medical Innovations, of Waltham, Mass. The new BC offer is valid until midnight May 15. (See BioWorld Today, March 27, 2007, and April 6, 2007.)

• Diosynth Biotechnology, of Research Triangle Park, N.C., signed an agreement with Blue Bell, Pa.-based VGX Pharmaceuticals Inc. for process development activities and cGMP production of clinical trial material for VGX's biological therapeutic drug candidate, VGX-100. The development and manufacturing program will employ the Dowpharma Pfcnex Expression Technology, a Pseudomonas-based technology designed to increase yields of recombinant protein when used in biomanufacturing applications. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. VGX-100, a recombinant viral protein aimed at inducing apoptosis, will be tested initially in trials involving non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and gastric cancer patients.

• Expression Genetics Inc., of Huntsville, Ala., said the FDA awarded the company a three-year, $1.05 million grant to assist in the clinical development of EGEN-001, the company's lead product for advanced recurrent ovarian cancer. The product recently completed a Phase I trial and is advancing toward expanded clinical testing to evaluate its safety and efficacy when given in combination with standard chemotherapy. EGEN-001 previously was granted orphan drug status.

• LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Bozeman, Mont., said preclinical data show that immunization with its influenza virus-like particles (VLP) induced heterosubtype protection in a virus challenge study. Those data demonstrate that the company's H1N-VLP resulted in 100 percent protection against both H1N1 and H3N2 influenza. Results were presented at the Vaccine Research conference in Baltimore.

• Oligomerix Inc., of New York, received a $233,598 Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant from the National Institute on Aging to develop high-throughput technology for drug discovery in Alzheimer's disease. That technology targets Tau Oligomers, small soluble aggregates of tau protein that contribute to the pathway of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases, with the aim of discovering disease-modifying drugs that can halt or reverse neuron loss.

• Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco has earned a $1 million payment from Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., for meeting a preclinical milestone in their collaboration to develop oral small-molecule inhibitors of beta-amyloid converting enzyme (BACE), which is believed to play a key role in Alzheimer's disease. BACE inhibitors are thought to block a key enzyme from cleaving the amyloid precursor protein into peptide fragments which form insoluble plaques that inhibit the normal functioning of the brain.

• ThromboGenics NV, of Leuven, Belgium, said it concluded an out-licensing deal involving its antibodies against platelet glycoprotein Ib and von Willebrand Factor, so it can focus in resources on its advanced preclinical programs. Those antibodies, which are in development as anti-thrombotic agents, were licensed to the D. Collen Research Foundation, in exchange for a lump sum payment equal to the company's total investment in the programs, plus a 25 percent share of any future revenue that the foundation might receive from the programs. In the meantime, ThromboGenics will turn its efforts to its preclinical programs, such as TB-403, which is due to enter the clinic later this year. TB-403 (anti-PIGF) is a humanized monoclonal antibody designed to block the formation of new blood vessels in solid tumors.

• Vasogen Inc., of Toronto, has been notified by the Nasdaq Stock Market that the company has regained compliance with the $1 per share minimum closing bid price required for continued listing on the Nasdaq Capital Market

• ViroPharma Inc., of Exton, Pa., decided to establish a wholly owned European subsidiary to execute the regulatory and commercialization strategy of maribavir overseas, rather than seek a partner. The company has started to establish European development and commercialization infrastructure and is implementing a European regulatory plan. Maribavir, a selective oral antiviral drug for treating cytomegalovirus, is in an ongoing Phase III program.

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