• 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.

• BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Antonio, withdrew its filing for an initial public offering. The company filed for the IPO in June 2004, hoping to raise $86 million to fund clinical development of its cancer products, Tavocept and BNP1350, and support other research and development activities. BioNumerik had withdrawn an earlier IPO offering in November 2001, citing unfavorable market conditions. (See BioWorld Today, June 11, 2004.)

• Gene Logic Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., presented results at the American Diabetes Association meeting in Washington suggesting that overeating prior to adolescence might cause permanent changes in how the body metabolizes and stores fat by increasing the hormone leptin. Those changes could lead to an increased risk for adulthood obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it said.

• 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.

• Lpath Inc., of San Diego, said it humanized its Sphingomab monoclonal antibody against sphingosine-1-phosphate, a bioactive lipid that has been validated as a cancer drug target. The murine-based form Sphingomab was created using Lpath's ImmuneY2 technology and was humanized by the Therapeutic Antibody Group of Medical Research Council Technology in London.

• MGI Pharma Inc., of Minneapolis, said the FDA accepted its new drug application for Saforis (glutamine in UpTec) Powder for Oral Suspension for priority review, and a PDUFA date was set for Oct. 12. Saforis is an investigational drug for the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis in patients receiving mucotoxic cancer therapy.

• NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Parsippany, N.J., said it is reducing its staff by 53 percent, leaving 230 employees, and closing a technical operations facility in Mississauga, Ontario, as part of its restructuring effort to reduce its cash burn. The company is discontinuing all activities related to the U.S. commercialization of Preos, a parathyroid hormone to reduce fracture risk, which received an approvable letter in March and sent the company's stock plummeting 38 percent to close at $8.77. In May, the FDA proposed that NPS conduct another clinical trial. Due to this delay, the company is assessing whether to file an amendment with data from existing or ongoing studies, or initiate a new trial to collect additional data demonstrating the risk/benefit ration of Preos. As a result of its restructuring activities, the company expects to decrease its cash burn for 2006 to between $135 million and $145 million. NPS anticipates ending the year with a cash balance of $114 million to $124 million. Shares of NPS (NASDAQ:NPSP) fell 18.6 percent Monday to close at $4.54, down $1.04. (See BioWorld Today, March 13, 2006.)

• Panacea Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., closed a Series D round, raising $8.9 million to advance the diagnostic and therapeutic products within its HAAH Oncology Program, which is based on the enzyme human aspartyl beta-hydroxylase that is overexpressed in multiple cancer types. Funds also will be used to strengthen the company's pipeline. Investors in the financing included Konishi Hiroshi, Kenso Kogyo Co. Ltd., Kyokuto Securities Co. Ltd., Medikit Co. Ltd., Mizuho Capital Co. Ltd., Nomura Research & Advisory Co. Ltd., Shin Nihon Jitsugyo Co. Ltd. and Softbank Investment Corp.

• Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, earned a $4.25 million payment from Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc. for meeting certain preclinical milestones in the companies' collaboration to develop oral, small-molecule inhibitors of beta-amyloid-converting enzyme for Alzheimer's disease. The deal, signed in February 2003, called for Sunesis to receive undisclosed up-front, research and milestone payments, as well as potential royalties from Merck, which would retain an exclusive, worldwide license to all resulting products. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 20, 2003.)

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