• Astex Therapeytics Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, got a new CEO, John Aston, who left the post of chief financial officer at Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc when it was acquired by AstraZeneca plc earlier in the year. Astex has progressed its structure-based drug design platform into clinical stage products and has said it is grooming itself for an initial public offering. Aston oversaw CAT's flotation on the London Stock Exchange and its subsequent listing on Nasdaq.

• Cathay Industrial Biotech Ltd., of Shanghai, China, closed a $52 million Series B financing, bringing the total raised in 2006 to $78 million. The company raised $26 million in a Series A financing in May. Series B investors include Goldman Sachs, Gramineae Holdings Co. Ltd., GM Investment Co. Ltd. and New Horizon Evergreen Investment Co. Ltd., as well as Series A investors. Funds will be used to improve Cathay's long chain dibasic acids production technology by replacing the starting raw material from the traditional alkane to renewable biomaterials.

• CeNeS Pharmaceuticals plc, of Cambridge, UK, raised £4.82 million (US$9.5 million) in a placing with institutional investors. At the same time, the company said it completed patient recruitment in its European Phase III trial of M6G, a morphine derivative for the treatment of post operative pain. The study enrolled more than 500 patients at 24 centers in six countries. Results are expected in early 2007. The study is designed to provide a comparison of effective intravenous pain management regimens of M6G or morphine treatment for a minimum of 24 hours, and up to 48 hours, following major abdominal surgery.

• Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, was awarded contracts totaling more than $230 million for its Quinvaxem and Hepavax-Gene pediatric vaccines by supranational organizations. The contracts cover the next three years until 2009, with the awarded amount growing over those years. Quinvaxem, a fully liquid pentavalent vaccine, was co-developed by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, a division of Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG, and combines antigens for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussia, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae Type B. Hepavax-Gene is a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine.

• Epidauros Biotechnologie AG, of Bernried, Germany, and InPheno AG, of Basel, Switzerland, entered a sales and marketing partnership to jointly apply their capabilities in the areas of genotyping and phenotyping, with a particular focus on disease areas, such as virology and oncology. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• ERA Biotech, of Barcelona, Spain, concluded a €1.4 million (US$1.87 million) financing. Invertec, Reus Capital Riesgo, Talde Capital II and Uninvest led the round, which also included participation by individuals and entities close to the company. ERA Biotech will use the funds to continue the commercial deployment of its bioproductivity manufacturing solutions, to augment the downstream processing gains they deliver and to initiate the development of products.

• Evolutec Group plc, of Reading, UK, suffered on the stock market, as shares plunged from £1.34 to 43 pence when the company announced Monday that no significant differences were observed between its lead product rEV131 and placebo in the Phase IIb trial in allergic rhinitis, and the primary endpoint was not met. Further clinical results with rEV131 from a second unrelated indication, inflammation following cataract surgery, are due early next year. The company said it will review its strategy for rEV131 once those clinical results are received.

• Galapagos NV, of Mechelen, Belgium, secured a €500,000 (US$666,358) European grant to support the participation of its service division, BioFocus DPI, in Proligen, a research consortium focused on enhancing regeneration of injured kidneys. Proligen aims to improve the regenerative capacity of injured kidneys, using information derived from genomics, proteomics and functional genomics. Under the terms, BioFocus DPI will use its SilenceSelect and FLeXSelect adenoviral libraries and cellular assay expertise to identify targets to serve as starting points for treatment methods.

• Humanyx Pte. Ltd., of Singapore, said it was selected by the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) to collaborate on antibody therapies against the H5N1 virus. Humanyx will work with GIS and will license to GIS its phage library for research and development to identify antibodies or anti-binding regions against the virus. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Medivir AB, of Huddinge, Sweden, and Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co., of Shanghai, China, agreed to extend their research collaboration signed December 2003 to develop protease inhibitors against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To date, Medivir has combined its COPD protease inhibitor program, screening systems and enabling technologies with Hengrui's medicinal chemistry, and preclinical models have demonstrated efficacy based on biomarkers. The companies now will conduct further studies with the aim of selecting one or more drug candidates. Financial terms were not disclosed. The agreement now extends to June 18, 2007.

• MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, entered an alliance with the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif., covering the use of fully human recombinant research antibodies and commercialization of resulting products. Terms of the deal provide the institute access to HuCAL GOLD-based research antibodies from AbD Serotec to identify and validate target molecules with potential medical implications. MorphoSys retains commercialization rights for all antibodies emerging from the collaboration, both as research antibody tools distributed via the AbD Serotec sales catalog, as well as in therapeutic or diagnostic applications. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• PanGenetics BV, of Utrecht, the Netherlands, completed a licensing agreement with Schering-Plough Corp., of Kenilworth, N.J., which granted PanGenetics exclusive rights to an undisclosed therapeutic antibody from Schering-Plough's preclinical portfolio. PanGenetics will assume responsibility for the investigational new drug application-enabling preclinical program and will carry out initial clinical safety and efficacy evaluation. Schering-Plough then has the option to either assume exclusive responsibility for further development of the antibody or enter a co-development arrangement.

• SR Pharma plc, of London, said that studies at the Charité Hospital in Berlin demonstrated the superior efficacy of its lead product, Atu027 RNAi, in preclinical models of pancreatic cancer, when compared to standard treatment. The data showed inhibition of tumor growth and prevention of metastatic spread, demonstrating potent efficacy and effective systemic delivery, with no adverse events. The company said the results supported further development of the product for pancreatic cancer and a Phase I clinical trial is scheduled to start in 2007. Atu027 RNAi, delivered via SR Pharma's proprietary liposomal-based delivery system, AtuPLEX, targets PKN3, a proprietary protein kinase target.

• ReNeuron Group plc, of Guildford, UK, and CellSeed Inc., of Tokyo, a privately owned tissue engineering company, signed a collaboration agreement to develop novel, patented liver cell culture systems for drug safety screening. The development work, to be conducted in CellSeed's laboratories, will establish protocols for efficiently developing ReNeuron's ReNcell HEP hepatocyte cell lines in combination with CellSeed's UpCell and HydroCell temperature-sensitive polymer products for 3-dimensional functional liver tissue.

• Santhera Pharmaceuticals AG, of Liestal, Switzerland, and the Biozentrum at the University of Basel are participating in a pan-European network initiative coordinating research into rare neuromuscular diseases, the Translational Research in Europe - Assessment and Treatment of Neuromuscular Diseases (TREAT-NMD). It is funded by a European Union grant of €10 million (US$13.2 million) over five years. Santhera will select disease-relevant efficacy readout parameters and develop standardized protocols and procedures for harmonizing and accelerating preclinical studies of drug candidates, and in parallel, the university researchers will select appropriate preclinical disease models.

• SkyePharma plc, of London, said Australian regulators approved Solaraze (diclofenac), its topical gel for actinic keratosis, the most frequently occurring form of carcinoma. The company stands to receive double-digit royalty payments on net sales from its marketing partner there, Shire Pharmaceuticals plc, of Basingstoke, UK. Shire hopes to launch Solaraze early next year, subject to discussions with distributors and approval of product information by the Australian regulators.

• ValiRx plc, of London, said it is providing £193,000 (US$375,000) in development funding to Morphogenesis Inc., of Oldsmar, Fla., which is developing a portfolio of cell therapy products for the treatment of chronic disorders. Its most advanced product, ImmuneFx, is in preclinical trials as a vaccine that targets tumors in humans and pets.

• Xceleron Ltd., of York, UK, raised £2 million (US$3.95 million) in a private funding round led by Close Brothers of London. The company, a spinout from York University, has pioneered the use of so-called "Phase 0" microdosing trials as a means of testing drugs in humans prior to full clinical trials. Microdosing now is approved by the FDA and the European Regulator EMEA.

• Xention Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, acquired exclusive rights to develop ion channel modulators with the potential for treating a number of diseases from Scion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Medford, MA. The compounds originally were developed at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Separately, Xention and BMS made an agreement under which Xention will assume the previous license agreement between BMS with Scion, and which amends that license agreement to expand the indications in which these compounds may be developed. The ion channel modulators may be tested in a number of disorders including overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome and erectile dysfunction. The most advanced compound already has been through preclinical and Phase I development and will be developed further by Xention in the first instance for the treatment of overactive bladder.

No Comments