• Addex Pharma SA, of Geneva, began a Phase I clinical trial of ADX48621, a negative allosteric modulator of the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5, which has potential application in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder and inflammatory pain. The program is a placebo-controlled single ascending dose study in 48 healthy volunteers that will examine safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics, as well as a second study in 16 volunteers of the effect of food on the compound's pharmacokinetics, safety and tolerability.

• Argenta Discovery Ltd., of Harlow, UK, has entered into a lead optimization collaboration with BioTie Therapies Corp., of Turku, Finland. Under the terms of the agreement, scientists from the two companies will exploit Argenta's expertise in medicinal chemistry, computer-aided drug design and early ADME to advance one of BioTie's therapeutics programs toward development. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement does provide options to expand the relationship.

• Aureus Pharma, of Paris, licensed its AurSCOPE Knowledge databases to Bayer CropScience, of Monheim, Germany. The databases contain quantitative biological activity data related to various protein targets including G-Protein Coupled receptors, ion channels and kinases, which are important in fungicide and insecticide development. Financial terms were not disclosed. Last June, Aureus licensed its ion channel database to Xention Discovery Ltd. for small molecule discovery.

• Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, received a €1.7 million (US$2.3 million) European Commission-funded grant, which was awarded to a consortium of nine universities and companies working in the field of influenza research. The funds will support preclinical and clinical testing of H5N1 vaccines. In addition, Crucell has entered into a long-term distribution deal with Talecris Biotherapeutics GmBH, of Research Triangle Park, N.C. Under the terms of the agreement, Crucell will serve as the exclusive distributor of Talecris' Prolastin (alpha-1 proteinase inhibitor) in nine Western European countries. Alpha-1 treatments currently are sold across Europe and North America. The North American market is estimated to be more than $250 million per year. The deal is the first full use of Crucell's new pan-European marketing and sales organization created through the acquisitions of Berna Biotech and SBL Vaccines in 2006.

• Genfit, of Lille, France, reported a sharp drop in its net income to €335,700 (US$450,000) in 2006 from €1.63 million in 2005. Revenues declined from €13.2 million to €11.4 million from one year to the next, but the main reason for the deterioration in the company's profitability was a sharp rise in research and development spending due to the ongoing clinical trials of its two lead candidates. Nevertheless, the company's cash position improved to €22.4 million at the end of 2006 from €12.5 million the year before.

• Hunter-Fleming Ltd., of Bristol, UK, said it has enrolled the first patients into a Phase IIa biomarker study of HF0220 in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD). The multicenter, double-blind placebo-controlled trial is designed to demonstrate the safety and tolerability, determine an optimal dose for Phase IIb studies, and to elucidate further the novel mode of action. The study in up to 40 AD sufferers will take place in centers across the UK and Sweden. The effects of giving different doses of HF0220 over 28 days on biochemical markers of oxidative stress and other markers of AD in plasma and cerebral spinal fluid will be measured. The study also includes biomarkers related to the effect of HF0220 on prostaglandin production linked to HF0220's mode of action. Interim results are expected at the end of 2007, with final results published in first half of 2008.

• Immunicon Corp., of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., and Kreatech Biotechnology BV, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, are expanding their January 2006 research collaboration related to centromere probes, which involved the use of Immunicon's technologies with Kreatech's Universal Linkage System. Under the new exclusive, cross-license agreement, Immunicon provided rights to Kreatech to use certain technologies to improve existing Kreatech products and to manufacture and supply those products for sale by Immunicon in North America. In addition, Immunicon agreed to make an equity investment of up to $1.5 million in Kreatech based on the achievement of certain development milestones.

• MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, entered a collaborative research program with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to develop monoclonal T-cell receptor drugs to prevent the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells at the onset of type I diabetes. JDRF will provide funding over the two-year collaboration to complete proof-of-concept preclinical studies and begin clinical trials.

• NicOx SA, of Sophia-Antipolis, France, initiated a second pivotal Phase III trial of naproxcinod in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The trial will involve 1,020 patients at about 120 centers in the EU. The objective of the study is to confirm the efficacy of naproxcinod, the first of NicOx' COX-inhibiting nitric oxide-donating (CINOD) class of anti-inflammatory agents, and to provide additional blood pressure data. Efficacy results are expected in mid-2008, and the company plans to file a new drug application in the US in the first quarter of 2009.

• Oxford Immunotec Ltd., of Oxford, UK, licensed its T-SPOT technology to Paris-based Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines business of Sanofi-Aventis Group for use in vaccine programs. T-SPOT offers an approved method for directly quantifying antigen-specific T cells. In other news, the companies settled their patent disputes related to the technology. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

• ProFibrix BV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, and Bioceros NV, of Utrecht, the Netherlands, entered a collaboration to establish a platform for production, purification and characterization of fibrinogen. Bioceros, a contract research organization, will work to generate and test new proteins for use in ProFibrix research and development programs. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• ValiRx plc, of London, announced that its subsidiary, Cronos Therapeutics Ltd., of London, has signed an agreement with the University of Surrey's Postgraduate Medical School to co-develop prostate and bladder cancer diagnostics based on Cronos' proprietary HyperGenomics technology. HyperGenomics is a rapid, high-throughput and extremely sensitive diagnostic technology that can be used to characterize any particular cell, disease or differentiation state using a patented PCR-based method for mapping the open areas of chromatin on a chromosome. The technology, which provides information similar to that found in DNA samples, can be automated for the highly parallel analysis of thousands of genes in thousands of samples.

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