• Alfacell Corp., of Bloomfield, N.J., said independent new research shows that the molecular mechanism that asbestos uses to provoke lung cancer might have been identified. The research also found that Onconase (ranpirnase) might be one of the most effective methods of treatment for mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by this mechanism, and may even reduce the incidence of these cancers in those exposed to asbestos. The data are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• Asterand plc, of Detroit, signed a nonexclusive partnership with Rubicon Genomics Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., to discover new biomarkers for cancer diagnosis. Asterand will supply tissue and biofluid samples from its biorepository and its worldwide network of clinical collaborators, and Rubicon will perform retrospective and prospective studies with the samples using its MethylPlex technology to discover more sensitive and specific methylated DNA markers for cancer diagnosis and prognosis.

• Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., offered to pay $2.2 billion in cash to acquire Pliva dd, of Zagreb, Croatia. The proposed generic merger has been endorsed by Pliva's board.

• Cyntellect Inc., of San Diego, received a $500,000 award under the Small Business Innovative Research program to continue the development of its laser-based LEAP system for enhancing RNA interference applications. The Phase IIb grant from the National Science Foundation will fund development of Cyntellect's LEAP-enabled LaserFect technology for high-efficiency, low-toxicity delivery of siRNA into cells that typically are refractory to standard transfection techniques.

• Debiopharm Group, of Lausanne, Switzerland, signed a research agreement with Aurigene Discovery Technologies Ltd., of Bangalore, India, to identify and develop compounds for two new but unspecified immuno-oncology targets. Aurigene will contribute its experience in discovery and in vivo optimization of lead compounds. Drug development expertise will be provided by Debiopharm, which will pay Aurigene research milestones according to a pre-defined research plan and reimbursement of research costs upon achievement of a specific milestone.

• EKR Therapeutics Inc., of Cedar Knolls, N.J., completed its first institutional financing led by NewSpring Capital and ESP Equity Partners. EKR will be led by Howard Weisman, former founder, president and director of Edison, N.J.-based ESP Pharma Inc., which was sold to PDL BioPharma, of Fremont, Calif., last year. As chairman and CEO, Weisman will be joined by EKR co-founders Cathy Kerzner and Richard DeSimone as president and chief financial officer, respectively. EKR is focused on improving the quality of life of cancer patients.

• Endovasc Inc., of Houston, awarded a contract to ABC Laboratories Inc., of Columbia, Mo., to develop an assay to determine the content of prostaglandin E-1 (PGE-1) in the blood of patients during and after the delivery of Liprostin. The pharmakokinetic studies will be carried out in parallel with Phase III studies of the drug. Endovasc said there is no validated analytical study in the U.S. to determine the concentration of both PGE-1 and its active metabolite at concentrations that it expects to see in the bloodstream.

• Epigenomics AG, of Berlin, said Affymetrix Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., granted it nonexclusive access to Affymetrix microarray technology to develop and market microarray-based in vitro diagnostic tests for oncology and other indications. The first products will be pathology tests in prostate and breast cancer.

• EQiTX Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, restructured its synthetic vaccine project into a fully owned vehicle called ImmunoTX Pty. Ltd. To drive the EQiTX focus on immunotherapies, the new entity will develop alternate technology to allow expanded therapeutic vaccine target applications, accelerated development and full ownership. EQiTX decided to create ImmunoTX because it has yet to gain control of VacTX Pty Ltd., a joint venture with the Australian government.

• Metabasis Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, purchased all of the assets of an insulin resistance program for metabolic diseases from note holders of Cengent Therapeutics Inc., also of San Diego. The acquired assets included several lead compounds and compound libraries, multiple patent families, biological assays and reagents, protein crystal structures and various other components of Cengent's efforts around PTP-1B (Protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B), a validated molecular target that mediates insulin resistance in mammals. Metabasis would make milestone payments based on clinical outcomes involving an acquired compound, and would pay commercialization milestones and royalties.

• Neuroscience Therapy Corp., of San Dimas, Calif., said it has received and has signed an intent to be purchased for $50 million by an undisclosed firm. The company anticipates closing the transaction within 10 days. Its product portfolio consists of the P-Stim Electro Stimulation Device and the Multi-Point Stylus, which are used to relieve pain.

• Novozymes A/S, of Bagsvaerd, Denmark, and China Resources Alcohol Corp. said they will enter a three-year cooperation agreement on research into processes for producing cellulosic-based ethanol - second-generation biofuel - in China. Novozymes is developing the necessary enzymes for the cellulosic-based ethanol process. The parties will form a joint research team, which will be based at the pilot factory in Zhaodong.

• PuriCore Inc., of Malvern, Pa., said its parent holding company, PuriCore plc, raised £30 million (US$54.7 million) by way of an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange. The firm, which will trade as "PURI," sold 45.5 million shares at 66 pence apiece. PuriCore develops pathogen-killing technology that mimics the human body's natural antimicrobial, hypochlorous acid. Nomura Code Securities Ltd. acted as sponsor, financial adviser, joint bookrunner and joint lead manager for the offering. Nomura International acted as joint bookrunner and joint lead manager.

• Sosei Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, will receive up to £17.5 million (US$31.9 million) after agreeing to partner AD 923, its sublingual fentanyl spray for cancer breakthrough pain, with Mundipharma International Corp. Ltd., of Bermuda. The arrangement includes Europe and other international markets, but excludes North America and Japan. Also, Sosei retained the option to co-promote AD 923 in the UK and Germany. Sosei will be responsible for developing and registering AD 923, and Mundipharma will be responsible for manufacture, marketing and sales within the licensed territories. The funds include up-front and milestone payments, followed by "significant" double-digit royalties.

Trinity Biotech plc, of Dublin, Ireland, completed its $51.9 million acquisition of the coagulation product line of bioMérieux SA, of Marcy l'Etoile, France. The assets comprise a portfolio of diagnostic tests manufactured primarily in Durham, N.C., and a range of automated instruments primarily manufactured in St Louis. Trinity, which develops diagnostic products for the point-of-care and clinical laboratory markets, plans to transfer the former to Dublin and the latter to Jamestown, N.Y.

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