• Artemis Pharmaceuticals GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, signed a research agreement to construct a large number of shRNA interference-genetically engineered mouse models for the in vivo functional analysis of selected disease-related genes for Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J. Artemis will use its vector construction, ES cell transfection and inducible RNAi technology to generate genetically engineered shRNAi knock-down mouse models, and Merck will provide selected shRNA sequences that correspond to mouse genes that also might play a central role in human diseases. Artemis will use its technologies to achieve constitutive as well as inducible functional down-regulation of the expression of the gene targets provided by Merck. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Cancer Research Technology Ltd., of London, the technology-transfer arm of the charity Cancer Research UK, and the University of Manchester are establishing a R&D collaboration with AstraZeneca plc, of London, to identify and validate circulating biomarkers for use in conjunction with targeted cancer therapeutics. The three-year program will serve as a pilot for a wider agreement between CRT and AstraZeneca in clinical pharmacology.

• Eurofins Scientific, of Nantes, France, reported a 51.4 percent jump in revenues to €246 million (US$315.9 million) in the first nine months of the year from €162 million in the corresponding period of 2005, due to a greater-than-expected number of acquisitions in recent months. Since the beginning of October, Eurofins has acquired several mid-sized firms in Germany, Italy and France, including the loss-making French branch of the British company ALcontrol Laboratories, of Rotheram. Altogether, Eurofins' recent acquisitions will contribute about €20 million to its annual revenues and should boost its earnings from 2008 onward. Meanwhile, the company's earnings have not risen in line with its revenues this year, since its net profit edged up only 5.3 percent to €9.9 million in January through September. The company now is forecasting annual revenues of €345 million in 2006 and €420 million in 2007, against €233 million in 2005.

• Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. KGaA, of Bad Homburg, Germany, completed its acquisition of worldwide rights to PhosLo (calcium acetate) from Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, of Boca Raton, Fla. The oral phosphate binder is used in end-stage renal disease patients, and its acquisition allows Fresenius to further expand its market position in dialysis-related drugs. The deal includes consideration of up to $150 million in up-front cash, milestone payments and royalties on sales of a new product formulation under development for Nabi, which said PhosLo was no longer strategically aligned with its broader commercialization efforts.

• Genmab A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, licensed rights to the MIF receptor target from King of Prussia, Pa.-based Cytokine PharmaSciences Inc. to develop therapeutic human antibodies to the target. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

• Kamada Ltd., of Rehovot, Israel, and PARI Aerosol Research Institute, of Monterey, Calif., agreed to collaborate on Kamada's alpha-1 antitrypsin liquid drug candidate for inhalation through PARI's eFlow for patients suffering from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. The inhaled AAT was designated as an orphan drug for congenital emphysema and cystic fibrosis in both the U.S. and Europe. Phase I development is expected to begin immediately. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• NicOx SA, of Sophia-Antipolis, France, reported preclinical results from a prototype compound being investigated in a collaboration with Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J. The compound concerned is NCX 899, a nitric oxide-donating derivative of the anti-hypertensive agent enalapril, which was tested in equimolar doses in comparison with standard enalapril in aged, spontaneously hypertensive rats, a validated model of hypertension. The results suggested that NicOx's NO-donating technology may have the potential to improve the blood pressure lowering activity of antihypertensive agents. In the deal, NicOx received an up-front payment of €9.2 million (US$11.8 million) from Merck and is eligible milestones of up to €279 million.

• ReNeuron Group plc, of Guildford, UK, said Millipore Corp., of Billerica, Mass., launched its ReNcell neural stem cell line for non-therapeutic applications. These are said to be the only immortalized human somatic neural stem cells on the market. They are suitable for use in central nervous system drug discovery, displaying the same markers as normal cells. ReNeuron is working on an investigational new drug application to trial the cells in patients suffering from the after-effects of stroke.

• Sareum Holdings plc, of Cambridge, UK, agreed to a 12-month target research services agreement with Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco. Sareum will receive fees and milestones worth more than $1.5 million, and there is an option to extend the deal for an additional 12 months.

• Solagran Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, entered a preliminary agreement to acquire a 60 percent interest in a plant-based extract manufacturer - SibEX, of Tomsk, Russia. The proposed deal would enable Solagran to increase its production capacity of its liver disease drug Ropren by a factor of 10, sufficient to meet expected market demand once the product receives Russian regulatory approval. Ropren, which is made from Bioeffective R, one of 15 Bioeffectives that Solagran has developed, also has completed clinical trials in Russia for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

• Sosei Group Corp., of Tokyo, has a huge hole in its pipeline following the announcement that AD452, for treating rheumatoid arthritis, is to be scrapped after it failed to meet either primary or secondary endpoints in a Phase IIb trial. The company acquired the product when it took over the UK biotech Arakis Ltd. in July 2005 for £106.5 million (US$187.4 million). The failure leaves Sosei with five products in development, of which three came from Arakis. The lead drug, NVA237, for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is jointly owned by Vectura Group plc, of Chippenham, UK, and out-licensed to Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland; AD923 a sublingual formulation of fentanyl for treating cancer breakthrough pain is in Phase I; and AD337 for treating fibromyalgia syndrome is in Phase II. The Phase IIb study of AD452 involved 308 patients at 35 European and U.S. centers.

• Synairgen plc, of Southampton, UK, obtained an exclusive license to intellectual property relating to a peptide for asthma. In preliminary in vitro studies, the peptide has been shown to suppress the effects of both interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, inflammatory proteins considered central to the development of allergic asthma. The discovery was made at the University of Southampton. Financial terms were not disclosed. In related news, Synairgen appointed Phillip Monk as its head of bioscience development. Previously, he directed the respiratory and inflammation biology group at Cambridge Antibody Technology plc, of Cambridge, UK, where he led its development of an interleukin-13 antibody for asthma.

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