• Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics BV, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said its gene therapy treatment AMT-020 was able to prevent the occurrence of porphyric attacks in a mouse model of acute intermittent porphyria (AIP). AMT-020, which delivers a gene encoding porphobilinogen deaminase (PBGD) via an an Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) vector, prevented attacks in PBGD-deficient mice exposed to increasing doses of phenobarbital over a four-day period. The company now plans to undertake studies demonstrating long-term therapeutic protein expression in primates. AIP is an inherited, life-threatening condition caused by a partial deficiency in liver PBGD. The new data are being presented at the Porphyrins and Porphyrias Congress in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, which runs from April 29 through May 3.

• Astex Therapeutics, of Cambridge, UK, granted a non-exclusive, worldwide license to its cytochrome P450 intellectual property to London-based GlaxoSmithKline plc in exchange for an unspecified up-front fee. New York-based Pfizer Inc. obtained a similar license last year to patents on the drug-metabolizing enzymes. Astex also develops targeted cancer drugs and has two in the clinic.

• Celtic Pharmaceuticals Holdings LP, of Bermuda and London, said it received approval for an investigational new drug application to conduct a U.S. Phase IIb study of TA-NIC, a vaccine against nicotine addiction. The product induces nicotine-specific antibodies, which bind to nicotine in the bloodstream, preventing it from crossing the blood-brain barrier. The product belonged previously to Xenova plc, which completed two phase I/II UK studies in 120 smokers. There were no adverse events, and there were indications of efficacy in the treated group compared to placebo. The primary endpoint of the IIb study is the abstinence rate at six months. Celtic also is developing a vaccine against cocaine addiction, based on the same technology platform.

• Compugen Ltd., of Tel Aviv, Israel, entered a collaboration with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., targeted at discovering and validating biomarkers for diagnosing the presence of unstable atherosclerotic plaques in coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease. Compugen will use its discovery-engine approach to predict and validate biomarkers related to active atherosclerotic disease. Its analysis will incorporate data derived from biological materials provided by the Mayo Clinic, as well as Compugen's expression and clinical data. Compugen will have exclusive commercialization rights to resulting products. Mayo Clinic is entitled to undisclosed compensation.

• Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, and Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Inc., a unit of Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG, extended Novartis' nonexclusive research license to PER.C6 technology. The license agreement allows Novartis to use Crucell's PER.C6 cell technology in manufacturing alphavirus vectors for its vaccine research programs. Financial details were not disclosed. The PER.C6 technology is a cell line used in development and large-scale manufacture of biopharmaceutical products, including vaccines.

• CXR Biosciences Ltd., of Dundee, Scotland, and Geron Corp., of Menlo Park, Calif., wrapped up a research collaboration begun in May 2004 with the Roslin Institute, of Midlothian, Scotland. The collaboration developed enhanced protocols for creating human embryonic stem cell-derived liver cells for use in drug metabolism and toxicity studies, potentially offering an alternative to liver cells sourced from cadavers or liver resections. Geron and CXR will share the intellectual property resulting from the collaboration.

• Innate Pharma SA, of Marseille, France, announced the launch of two more clinical trials of IPH 1101, which is already undergoing a Phase II trial in metastatic renal cell carcinoma (MRCC). The new trials are in the indications of follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and viral hepatitis C (HCV), the latter being Innate's first clinical trial outside the field of oncology. IPH 1101 was granted orphan drug status for the treatment of MRCC by the European Medicines Agency in 2004. "Our development strategy in oncology aims at simultaneously conducting several clinical trials to maximize the chances of proving our concept," said Innate CEO Hervé Brailly. "We should have a total of four Phase II trials under way in different cancer indications by year-end. The objective of the HCV trial is to validate the mechanism of action in infections to later develop our second Tgd cell agonist, IPH 1201, in these indications using a different administration mode than intravenous. A proof of concept in these indications would also open the way to new partnering opportunities for Innate Pharma."

• Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, said its wholly owned U.S subsidiary, Kyowa Pharmaceutical Inc., filed for FDA approval of istradefylline (KW-6002) for Parkinson's disease. The new drug application is seeking clearance for the Adenosine A2A antagonist as adjunctive therapy to levodopa/carbidopa to improve motor function in patients who experience motor response complications.

• Nautilus Biotech, of Paris, raised €8.4 million (US$11.3 million) in investment funding, led by Creabilis Biotech, Ed.de Rothschild Investment Partners, Auriga Partners, Matignon Technologies, Pre-IPO Invest, FCJE, 123 Ventures and Genopole. Proceeds will be used to fund the initial clinical development of the company's two lead products, Belerofon and Vitatropin.

• OncoMethylome Sciences SA, of Liege, Belgium, was awarded a €1.95 million (US$2.7 million) grant by the Walloon government as part of the BioWin Marshall Plan program. The four-year research project involves a collaboration between OncoMethylome, the University of Liege and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, a unit of London-based GlaxoSmithKline plc. The work is focused on early detection of women's cancers and on cancer vaccines. The total project amounts to €3.5 million, of which the remainder was allocated to the university.

Reliance Life Sciences, of Mumbai, India, and MPM Capital LP, of Boston, are partnering to build India's life sciences sector, with Reliance becoming a limited partner in MPM's newest fund, MPM BioVentures IV, and will target a portion of the fund's international allocation to invest in emerging life science companies in India. Efforts also will include providing office space for a RLS investment professional dedicated to the MPM/RLS partnership and to explore the potential for a new India-only seed fund.

• SR Pharma plc, of London, said the company's name will be changed to Silence Therapeutics plc. As of April 30, shares of the company will be traded under the ticker symbol "SLN" on the London Stock Exchange. In related news, the company will continue to perform pre-clinical trials of Atu027, its first systemically formulated RNAi therapeutic for oncology indications. On Tuesday, SR Pharma received a $1.5 million milestone payment from Pfizer Inc., of New York, and Quark Biotech Inc., of Fremont, Calif., when its AtuRNAi compound, RTP-801i for acute kidney injury, entered Phase I trials.

• VASTox plc, of Oxford, UK, said it identified from screening libraries several novel series of small, drug-like molecules that show high levels of in vitro efficacy against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. VASTox's tuberculosis program targets N-acetyltransferase, an enzyme implicated in the growth of M. tuberculosis. Compounds that inhibit the enzyme, it said, are active against M. tuberculosis, resulting in cell death.

• Vernalis plc, of Winnersh, UK, said its board approved the delisting of its American Depositary Shares from the Nasdaq Stock Market after determining that continued compliance with the rules of the SEC and the exchange, in particular Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, would be excessively burdensome. The company will continue to list its shares on the London Stock Exchange.

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