• Ardana plc, of Edinburgh, UK, completed its initial public offering on the main market in London, but was forced to drop the price from £1.53 per share to £1.28. That left the reproductive health specialist with gross proceeds of £21 million (US$40.2 million) and a market capitalization of £71 million.

• Avidex Ltd., of Oxford, UK, published data that for the first time demonstrate that soluble, high-affinity human monoclonal T-cell receptors can be selected using phage display technology. The discovery paves the way for the development of new immunotherapeutics based on T-cell immune response, the company said. The results were published March 1, 2005, in Nature Biotechnology. Also, Avidex said it reached an agreement with Active Biotech AB, of Lund, Sweden, for the use of Avidex's monoclonal T-cell receptor (mTCR) technology to help Active Biotech develop its cancer immunotherapeutic Anyara. The agreement calls for Active Biotech to use Avidex's mTCR platform to characterize Anyara during clinical development. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• BioAlliance Pharma SA, of Paris, said data presented at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston suggested that styrlquinolines (SQLs), a family of integrase binding inhibitors, might offer a way to overcome HIV resistance. The company said its SQLs showed synergy with reverse transcriptase inhibitors (zidovudine and nevirapine), along with another family of integrase inhibitors known as diketoacids. An in vitro study suggested that SQLs could be used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs in multi-therapy regimens, and illustrated the potential for developing a class of alternative integrase inhibitors to prevent the development of HIV resistance.

• BioFocus plc, of Cambridge, UK, announced a brace of deals with partners little and large. The first with fellow biotech Senexis Ltd., also of Cambridge, is a collaboration to find beta-sheet breakers, with the aim of inhibiting amyloidosis, for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The second, with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, will use BioFocus' high-throughput screening to find new hits for nuclear hormone receptors.

• Biokine Therapeutics Ltd., of Rehovot, Israel, purchased all rights to T-140, a CXCR4 chemokine receptor antagonist, from Nobutaka Fujii of the University of Kyoto in Japan. Financial terms were not disclosed. Biokine is considering developing the drug as a treatment for glioma. T-140 and its analogues reportedly have been shown to be effective in selected inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as blocking HIV infection and treating carcinoma in animal models.

• Bionomics Ltd., of Adelaide, Australia, completed the acquisition of the French central nervous system business Neurofit for €1.25 million (US$1.6 million) in cash and shares. The acquisition includes intellectual property rights to Bionomics for the Parkinson's disease animal model developed by the Institut Pasteur. Bionomics said it intends to grow Neurofit's revenues while using the French company's CNS knowledge to enhance its development programs.

• CepTor Corp., of Hunt Valley, Md., granted an exclusive 15-year license to JCR Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd., of Ashiya, Japan, to develop and commercialize its muscular dystrophy product, Myodur, in the Pacific Rim, which includes Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore. The licensing agreement provides for equity payments and milestone payments, as well as double-digit royalties to CepTor from product sales. CepTor said it is moving Myodur into Phase I/II trials for Duchenne's muscular dystrophy.

• Cobra Biomanufacturing plc, of Keele, UK, signed an agreement with Hawaii Biotech Inc., of Aiea, Hawaii, to manufacture Hawaii's dengue fever and West Nile virus vaccines for clinical trials. The vaccines are based on proprietary genetically engineered antigens, with the dengue product consisting of five antigens, plus an adjuvant, while the West Nile vaccine contains a single antigen, plus adjuvant.

• ComGenex Inc., of Budapest, Hungary, extended its exclusive chemistry deal with Bayer Healthcare, a unit of Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer AG, for a seventh year. ComGenex will continue to provide chemistry services by applying its technologies to drug discovery activities ranging from hit identification to lead optimization.

• Corixa Corp., of Seattle, announced a joint collaboration with Lorantis Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, to continue the development of a therapeutic hepatitis B vaccine, containing Corixa's RC-529 adjuvant, as well as Lorantis' CV-1831 hepatitis B core antigen, previously owned by San Diego-based Apovia Inc. Lorantis will assume many of Apovia's development responsibilities. Corixa will take the lead for regulatory application and clinical trials, while Lorantis will handle preclinical studies and supply the core antigen. Both will share equally in all costs and potential revenues.

• Cresset BioMolecular Discovery Ltd., of Hertfordshire, UK, agreed to collaborate with Royston, UK-based Pharmagene plc to find leads against one of Pharmagene's drug discovery targets. Cresset will use its computational field technology to create electrostatic and surface-property molecular fields for known active compounds against Pharmagene's target, and then use them to create templates for identifying active compounds. Financial details were not disclosed.

• Debiopharm SA, of Lausanne, Switzerland, purchased all the outstanding shares of H3 Pharma from Montreal-based Soceite Generale de Financement (SGF), of Quebec City. H3 Pharma was created in 2001 as an equal partnership between SGF and the Debio Group, though it has undergone additional recapitalization since then, and holds shares in a German biotech company specializing in antibodies for cancer therapy. H3 Pharma's portfolio includes Sanvar, which received an approvable letter last year, and SC-1, a monoclonal IgM antibody that targets CD55SC-1, a cell-surface receptor expressed on human gastric carcinoma cells. Further details were not disclosed.

• Geneva Bioinformatics (GeneBio) SA, of Geneva, announced a joint venture with London-based Current Science Group to form a company called Current BioData Ltd., which will focus on the further development, promotion and distribution of ProXenter, a web-based information resource platform focused on specific groups of proteins for drug discovery.

• Genome Express, of Grenoble, France, and BioMérieux, of Lyon, France, signed a collaboration agreement providing for Genome Express to carry out a series of bacterial analyses for BioMérieux, which focuses on in vitro diagnostics for medical and industrial applications. Genome Express, which is specialized in DNA analysis, has developed a platform that combines molecular biology knowledge with bioinformatics tools. To identify molecules, it uses phylogenic analysis of marker genes, which are compared with its own sequence database. BioMérieux will have remote access to the results through a customer portal developed, hosted and maintained by Genome Express, allowing BioMérieux to manage sequence and identity data from its library of bacterial strains.

• The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) awarded €950,000 (US$1.3 million) to the University of Potsdam and the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Technology. The funds will be used to develop a DNA chip for tumor diagnosis. The award is part of the BMBF's program to support research, development and entrepreneurship in the former East Germany. The BMBF will award €13 million for projects in eastern Germany through the end of 2006 as part of its "InnoRegio" program; the ministry's other programs will award up to €90 million this year in eastern Germany and up to €500 million through the end of 2007.

• Icon Genetics, of Munich, Germany, and Large Scale Biology Corp., of Vacaville, Calif., entered a collaboration to co-develop a biopharmaceutical product under undisclosed terms. The alliance centers on the synergistic application of each company's patented gene expression and biomanufacturing resources with the goal of developing and commercializing a therapeutic product.

• Jurilab, of Kuopio, Finland, completed a genome-wide scan in hypertension in the East Finland Founder population. The DNA samples used in the study were collected in the 1980s from a genetically homogeneous population that can be traced back to a few-hundred founders in the 1600s. The Jurilab team used a familial extreme phenotype, stepwise LD mapping approach. The study confirmed Jurilab's previous assumptions concerning the total number of disease-related genes involved in hypertension and gave insight into the interplay of different genes and new pathways in hypertension, the company said.

• LEO Pharma A/S, of Ballerup, Denmark, and PFC Therapeutics LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp., of San Diego, agreed to modify their exclusivity agreement related to the development and marketing of Oxygent in Europe and Canada. The amendment extends the deadline for LEO to complete due diligence, from March 1 to 60 days following PFC's submission to LEO of results of a proof-of-concept study in surgery patients. Oxygent is a synthetic oxygen therapeutic being developed to help avoid red-blood-cell transfusions during surgery.

• Medical Marketing International Group plc, of Cambridge, UK, licensed technology for treating autoimmune diseases from its academic partners and King's College London and Queen Mary College London. The technology will be subsumed into Viratis Ltd., a joint venture between MMI and the colleges.

• MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, has been added to TecDAX, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange's index of Germany's most significant mid-cap technology companies. MediGene will join the 30-company index March 18.

• Neuren Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Auckland, New Zealand, and Metabolic Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, agreed to co-develop Neuren's class of neuro-regenerative peptides for the treatment of degenerative conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, motor neuron disease and repairing the brain or nerves after injuries. The parties will jointly develop the NRPs project with all intellectual property and commercial outcomes to be shared.

• NicOx SA, of Sophia-Antipolis, France, reported results from a Phase IIa study showing that NCX 4016 is more effective than aspirin and placebo at preventing platelet activation induced by acute hyperglycemia in diabetic patients. NCX 4016 is an antithrombotic and vascular anti-inflammatory agent, which is being developed by NicOx for the treatment of peripheral arterial obstructive disease and other cardiovascular-related disorders. The prospective, double-blind, randomized trial involved 40 Type II diabetes patients. NCX 4016 was significantly better than aspirin (p=0.0435) on the primary endpoint.

• Pluristem Life Systems Inc., of Haifa, Israel, completed private placements totaling $3.2 million, part of which was reported in January, to further its development efforts, expand the company's infrastructure and for working capital. The funds will be used to continue development of the company's stem cell-expansion technology using the PluriX bioreactor.

• Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Raleigh, N.C., entered a co-promotion agreement with Altana Pharma U.S., a subsidiary of Konstanz, Germany-based Altana AG's pharmaceutical division, to promote Xifaxan (rifaximin) tablets to treat noninvasive E. coli strains. Altana will use one of its sales forces to promote the product to the primary-care physician market. Further details were not disclosed.

• Sinovac Biotech Ltd., of Beijing, extended the expiration date of warrants issued in the private placement that closed Feb. 24 until April 30, in order to raise additional capital. The exercise price of the warrants, starting at $1.70 per share, will increase 5 cents each month beginning March 15. To date, Sinovac has received proceeds of more than $3.4 million, and could receive up to an additional $3.7 million if the remaining outstanding warrants are exercised. The company said it anticipates proceeds to help fund the construction of influenza vaccine production facilities.

• Solexa Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, and Lynx Therapeutics Inc., of Hayward, Calif., completed their $56 million merger. The entity will be called Solexa Inc., with Solexa Ltd. becoming a wholly owned UK subsidiary. The company has listed on the Nasdaq SmallCap Market under the symbol "SLXA." John West will become CEO of the combined company, and Craig Taylor will serve as chairman.

• TopoTarget A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, acquired G2M Cancer Drugs AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, to strengthen its position in the area of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors. G2M, which was founded in March 2001, has two therapies in clinical development that are based on the small-molecule HDAC inhibitor G2M-777. PEAC, a proprietary formulation of the compound, has obtained orphan drug designation in the European Union and is expected to enter a Phase II trial in patients genetically predisposed to develop colon cancer later this year. BACEA, a topical formulation of the compound, has entered a Phase II trial in patients with an inflammatory skin condition and is expected to enter additional trials in skin cancer later this year. A third product, ZEMAB, an antibody that targets a common cancer antigen, has completed a Phase I trial. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

• UCB Group SA, of Brussels, Belgium, and ChemBridge Corp., of San Diego, agreed to a collaboration that will advance UCB's drug discovery efforts, based on multiple discovery chemistry projects by ChemBridge scientists funded by UCB. UCB said it will provide validated drug targets and use ChemBridge's expertise in discovery chemistry to push its lead-generation process in neurological diseases. Further details and financial terms were not disclosed.

• The UK government announced a large increase in the science budget that will see the amount spent on biotechnology rise from £287 million (US$549.3 million) in the current year to £381 million per year by 2007-2008. A further £300 million will be available to support technology transfer and commercialization of publicly funded research.

• Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, of Costa Mesa, Calif., received approval from the European Medicines Agency to market Tasmar (tolcapone) in the European Union. The company acquired the product from Basel, Switzerland-based F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. and re-launched it in the U.S. and other countries in 2004. Tasmar is an adjunctive agent used in combination with levodopa and carbidopa for patients with severe Parkinson's disease who are not responding satisfactorily or are not appropriate candidates for other adjunctive therapies.

• Xenova Group plc, of Slough, UK, reported preliminary 12-month findings from the second Phase I trial of TA-NIC, the company's therapeutic vaccine being developed for the treatment of nicotine addiction. A total of 60 subjects who smoked between 10 and 75 cigarettes a day were recruited and divided into three cohorts. The data showed that 12-month self-reported quit rates were substantially greater among those receiving TA-NIC than those receiving placebo.

• Zealand Pharmaceuticals A/S, of Glostrup, Denmark, gained a "significant" milestone payment from Sanofi-Aventis Group, of Paris, following the completion of a Phase IIa trial of AVE0010, a glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist it licensed to Sanofi-Aventis as a treatment for Type II diabetes. The compound exhibited a statistically significant reduction in blood glucose after eating as compared with placebo and it was safe and well tolerated, Zealand Pharma said. The company also said it extended an existing agreement with Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth in the field of gap junction modulators to include new compounds targeting cardiovascular disorders. Wyeth has obtained an option to license drug candidates under the same terms established in the previous agreement, in return for research bonus fees.