• Avecia Biotechnology Inc., of Billingham, UK, received a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. government to develop a version of Thraxine, an rPA (recombinant protective antigen)-based anthrax vaccine, with increase stability, due for completion by April 2008. The goal is to create a Thraxine version that can be stored, transported and used without the need for a conventional cold chain. The grant, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, follows a $71 million U.S. contract awarded to Avecia in September 2003 for ongoing development of an rPA vaccine.

• CuraGen Corp., of Branford, Conn., and TopoTarget A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, began patient dosing in a Phase II trial evaluating the activity of PXD101, a small-molecule histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, for acute myelogenous leukemia. The trial is being sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and will be conducted throughout the U.S. Up to 55 patients will be enrolled. The primary endpoint for the study is response rate, with secondary endpoints measuring overall survival and time to treatment failure. Correlative pharmacodynamic studies also will be conducted to evaluate the potential inhibition of HDACs in these cancer cells from patients treated with PXD101. Evaluation of the genes regulating proliferation and apoptosis, as well as differential gene expression in the cells obtained both prior to and following treatment with PXD101, also will be performed.

• DeveloGen AG, of Goettingen, Germany, parted company with CEO Günther Karmann "by mutual agreement," following a disagreement with the company's supervisory board over strategy. Chief Scientific Officer Cord Dohrmann will act as interim CEO during the search for a permanent replacement. Chief Financial Officer Carsten Dehning told BioWorld International that recruitment of a new CEO will be on hold until the company finalizes an upcoming private equity round in mid-July.

• Dharmacon Inc., of Lafayette, Colo., and Amaxa GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, formed an agreement to co-promote data generated using Dharmacon's siRNA libraries with Amaxa's Nucleofector technology. Some RNAi gene silencing research has been hampered by the insufficient delivery of siRNA into primary cells and non-standard cell lines. Nucleofection gives researchers the ability to transfer nucleic acids into the cells and use them for gene silencing experiments. Amaxa's Nucleofector 96-well Shuttle system allows parallel processing of a large number of transfection experiments.

• Epigenomics AG, of Berlin, entered a research agreement on diagnostics for colorectal cancer with Stanford University in California. Epigenomics and Stanford's Molecular Imaging Program will examine the potential of combining positron emission tomography (PET) with the use of DNA methylation markers to increase the sensitivity and specificity of colorectal cancer detection. The partners will test the combination in a study involving 120 patients, 60 of whom will have a confirmed colorectal cancer diagnosis and 60 of whom will have an alternative malignancy or a normal fluorodeoxyglucose PET scan.

• Evotec AG, of Hamburg, Germany, said its GABA-A modulator EVT 201 significantly reduced wake after sleep onset and significantly increased both total sleep time and quality of sleep in a placebo-controlled Phase I/II trial in healthy volunteers subjected to an insomnia model. The company said a dose-response relationship was evident, with significant efficacy at the three highest doses. No subjective residual effects were apparent.

• ExonHit Therapeutics SA, of Paris, announced that existing shareholders are to sell 2 million to 2.5 million shares at a price of €6.50 per share in an operation designed to increase the free float and enable venture capital funds to reinvest in early stage firms. While the company will not receive proceeds from the sale, it also is offering all shareholders the possibility of investing further in the company by allocating them free subscription warrants in a proportion of one warrant per share, with 10 warrants conferring the right to subscribe one new share at a price of €7.80. ExonHit said that any funds raised will finance new diagnostics projects in neurodegenerative and chronic diseases. The company completed an initial public offering on the Alternext market of Euronext Paris in November, when it sold about 1.3 million new shares at €2.89 per share. The IPO generated gross proceeds of €7.3 million, resulting in about 6.9 percent of ExonHit's capital passing into public hands.

• Gentium SpA, of Villa Guardia, Italy, completed a $22.1 million private placement of 1.9 million American depository shares at $11.39 each. Investors also received warrants to buy 388,705 ADSs at $14.50 each. ThinkEquity Partners LLC acted as the lead placement agent, while Rodman & Renshaw LLC and I-Bankers Securities Inc. were the co-agents. Net proceeds will be used to fund the continued development of Gentium's product candidates, including defibrotide for severe veno-occlusive disease in recipients of stem cell transplants, and for general corporate purposes.

• Ingenium Pharmaceuticals AG, of Munich, Germany, and Asinex Ltd., of Moscow, conducted a lead optimization project that resulted in the generation of novel active compounds, which will expand Ingenium's pipeline of pain and inflammatory disease treatments. The companies plan to continue their collaboration throughout this year.

• Lipoxen plc, of London, reported positive results of its hepatitis E vaccine delivered via the company's vaccine delivery technology, ImuXen, in a preclinical model. ImuXen uses a liposomal formulation method to deliver vaccine materials to the immune system in a way designed to emulate the response of a natural encounter with an infectious agent. Data showed that, after vaccination, there was complete protection from liver disease, as demonstrated by measurement of liver enzymes, and the lack of virus shedding as a result of infection. Clinical trials of the hepatitis E vaccine are anticipated to start in the first half of 2007.

• MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, defended opposition to one of its patents covering the production of cancer-killing herpes simplex virus (HSV) vaccine strains. Two UK universities, the University of London and the University of Glasgow, had opposed its European Patent No. EP 0500917, which MediGene licensed from the University of Chicago. The company has two oncolytic HSV vaccines in clinical development.

• MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, agreed to license its HuCAL technology to OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., for the research and development of therapeutic antibodies in cancer. Under the terms, MorphoSys grants OncoMed access to its antibody library HuCAL GOLD for drug discovery purposes. The two-year contract includes an up-front payment and annual user fees to MorphoSys. Further financial details were not disclosed.

• Neovacs, of Paris, appointed Guy-Charles Fanneau de la Horie as CEO in place of Alain Huriez. Fanneau de la Horie previously was vice president of IDM Pharma, of Paris, and between 1995 and 2004 had been with Biogen Idec Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., starting as country manager for France and moving up to become sales director in the U.S. Neovacs is developing therapeutic vaccines against human cytokines and immunosuppressive viral proteins.

• Novogen Ltd., of Sydney, Australia, renegotiated with Washington-based Marshall Edwards Inc., its majority owned subsidiary, on the timing of an $8 million milestone license payment for phenoxodiol payable to Novogen in December 2006. New terms postpone the license fee payment until phenoxodiol receives first approval for marketing in the U.S. or any other country. Delaying the payment will allow Marshall Edwards to focus its cash resources on completing the Phase III trial under a special protocol assessment from the FDA.

• OncoMethylome Sciences, with a presence in Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.S., opened its initial public offering June 12. The offering of new shares for a maximum amount of €35 million (US$42 million) is available to retail investors in Belgium and the Netherlands and to institutional investors in Europe. The shares will be listed on Eurolist by Euronext Brussels and Euronext Amsterdam. The company develops molecular tests for early stage cancer.

• Oxford BioMedica plc, of Oxford, UK, reported updated analyses from five Phase II studies of TroVax, its cancer immunotherapy product, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting last week. That included two trials in metastatic colorectal cancer in which 95 percent of per protocol patients had disease control, and a third are still alive with an average follow-up time of more than two years. The company also said that a UK clinical trial network called Quasar agreed to seek grant funding for a Phase III, 3,000-patient study of TroVax in early colorectal cancer. A U.S. Phase III trial of the product in renal-cell carcinoma is due to start in the second half of the year, following the FDA's recent agreement of a special protocol assessment.

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