• Avalon Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Germantown, Md, has begun the preliminary screening phase under a drug discovery collaboration, thus triggering a $500,000 payment for research support from its partner Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland. The effort seeks to discover small-molecule therapeutic compounds targeted against a pathway selected by Novartis. Terms also include up-front and milestone payments. Avalon will use its AvalonRx discovery platform to screen, identify and characterize compounds from the Novartis proprietary compound library.

• BD Biosciences, of San Jose, Calif., and Roche Bioscience, of Palo Alto, Calif., are collaborating to identify and develop intracellular phosphorylation site antibodies aimed at improving their understanding of the pathways that carry information inside of cells and why those pathways sometimes malfunction to cause disease. The companies also will develop and validate antibodies for those targets using BD PhosFlow technology and in other cell and tissue analysis applications. Roche will receive nonexclusive pre-launch access to all developmental PhosFlow antibodies and a period of exclusive commercial access to those validated antibodies. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Biomira Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta, said partner Merck KGaA, of Darmstadt, Germany, enrolled the first patient in a Phase III trial of Stimuvax in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The achievement triggered an undisclosed milestone payment to Biomira. The study will focus on Stage IIIb patients, the subgroup in which Stimuvax induced a survival advantage in a previous Phase IIb trial. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 3, 2007.)

• Biotage AB, of Uppsala, Sweden, signed a joint agreement with McMaster University to develop a new chemistry platform to speed the production of molecular imaging and therapy agents. Biotage will provide funding and instruments, including an Initiator microwave synthesizer, SP4 flash purification system and V10 Evaporator. Terms were not disclosed.

• ChemDiv Inc., of San Diego, and Kaken Pharmaceutical Co., of Tokyo, have entered into a joint drug discovery collaboration involving undisclosed therapeutic targets. Under the agreement, ChemDiv will produce lead candidates using its Discovery outSource platform, including proprietary rational design, extensive medicinal chemistry and preclinical biology capabilities. The chemical libraries will be screened for Kaken's drug targets. Terms were not disclosed.

• Devgen NV, of Ghent, Belgium, was awarded a €900,000 (US$1.2 million) grant from the Flemish government to develop new targets and therapeutic solutions for obesity. In its existing obesity program, the company is taking a multidisciplinary approach to validate a new class of kinase targets. The funding covers a period of 16 months.

• ExonHit Therapeutics SA, of Paris, issued 400,000 shares following the exercise of a tranche of the Pacea line signed between Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking and the company in October 2006. The shares were priced at €7.35 each, and the offering raised a total of €2.9 million (US$3.9 million). Since the first of January, the company has pulled in a total of €7.9 million. ExonHit has about 25.3 million shares outstanding.

• Galderma SA, of Lausanne, Switzerland, gained exclusive rights from Ipsen SA, of Paris, to develop, promote and distribute its botulinum toxin type A, Dysport, for use in aesthetic medicine indications in the European Union, Russia and certain territories of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In addition, Ipsen also granted Galderma first rights of negotiation for aesthetic medicine indications in the rest of the world, excluding the U.S., Canada and Japan, as well as rights for future formulations. In return, Galderma will pay Ipsen an up-front payment of €10 million (US$13.2 million) and up to €20 million in milestone payments as well as royalties. Ipsen will manufacture and supply Galderma's finished product at a fixed supply price. The total transfer price and royalties received by Ipsen will be about 40 percent of Galderma's net sales.

• Graffinity Pharmaceuticals GmbH, of Heidelberg, Germany, entered a research collaboration to provide access to its fragment-based drug discovery technology to Amgen Inc., of Thousand Oaks, Calif. The technology uses chemical microarrays to screen for small-molecule fragments that bind to a variety of drug targets, and a major focus of the arrangement is to identify new modes of action and chemistry. Graffinity will receive technology access fees and success payments for the generation of new small-molecule hits against a broad range of drug targets, though more specific financial details were not disclosed.

• Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, said study results published in the online edition of International Immunopharmacology demonstrate that its acute radiation syndrome drug candidate, Neumune (HE2100), significantly improved survival in clinically unsupported rhesus monkeys with radiation-induced myelosuppression. The company said it believes the data represent the first instance in which a compound administered as a single agent after exposure favorably affected survival in lethally irradiated, clinically unsupported non-human primates.

• Inex Pharmaceuticals Corp., of Vancouver, British Columbia, has submitted a petition in British Columbia courts seeking to have Protiva Biotherapeutics Inc., also of Vancouver, declared bankrupt and that a bankruptcy order be made in respect of the property of Protiva. Under agreements between the companies, Protiva is to reimburse INEX for certain patent costs incurred by INEX, but INEX said Protiva has not made a payment since June. In additional news, INEX said it is working to close its spin-out of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. on March 31.

• Novelix Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Pasadena, Calif., has licensed its drug candidate NVX-207 to AOP Orphan Pharmaceuticals AG, of Vienna, Austria. The exclusive but restricted license will allow AOP to develop and commercialize the compound in human orphan designations in all territories outside the U.S. Financial terms were not disclosed. AOP focuses on developing products for rare diseases.

• Ortec International Inc., of New York, has filed a pre-market approval supplement application with the FDA seeking permission to market its tissue-engineered product for treating venous leg ulcers. The company has submitted the manufacturing and controls section of the application and plans to submit a summary of the safety and effectiveness in clinical studies and device labeling in the second quarter. In September 2006 the company said data from a 12-week confirmatory trial indicated its product, OrCel, healed more wounds and achieved 100 percent wound closure sooner than the control group.

• Othera Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Exton, Pa., said preclinical data demonstrate that when the company's compound, OT-551, is added to either Lucentis (ranibizumab) or Avastin (bevacizumab), both from South San Francisco-based Genentech Inc., there is a synergistic effect compared to either treatment alone. Data were presented at the Angiogenesis 2007 Conference in Key Biscayne, Fla. Based on those results, Othera intends to enter Phase II testing to evaluate its OT-551 eye drop as an adjunctive therapy to Lucentis injections in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration.

• ReNeuron Group plc, of Guildford, UK, entered a revenue-sharing agreement with the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute concerning recently patented research conducted by those institutions on certain gene-based somatic cell expansion technology. ReNeuron's entitlement to revenues stems from a pre-existing agreement between the company and the LICR dating back to 1998. The technology relates to the controlled expansion of somatic cells using the SV40 Large T Antigen with a gene variant that renders the cell lines genetically stable.

• VGX Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Blue Bell, Pa., and AdviSys Inc., of The Woodlands, Texas, signed a merger agreement, in which VDX will acquire AdviSys' assets, including its pipeline for DNA-delivered therapeutics, along with the DNA delivery and cCMP manufacturing capabilities that will be added to VGX's recently established Immune Therapeutics division. VGX Immune Therapeutics will focus on developing and commercializing DNA-based cancer vaccines and therapeutics in the areas of infectious diseases and cancer. Terms of the merger were not disclosed, though the deal will add a number of assets to VGX, including AdviSys' employees and intellectual property relating to plasmid expression vector, growth hormone-releasing hormone and electrokinetic delivery technology. VGX also will acquire AdviSys' research and development and cGMP manufacturing operations in Texas. VGX's chief medical officer, C. Jo White, and chief financial officer, Gene Kim, will become the chief medical officer and chief financial officer, respectively, of the combined company.