• Aptamera Inc., of Louisville, Ky., said the FDA named AGRO100 an orphan drug for pancreatic cancer. The product, an anti-nucleolin aptamer, is the company's first clinical candidate. Aptamera said it would continue efforts to demonstrate AGRO100's potential use in a range of cancers, but noted that pancreatic cancer is its primary disease target.

• Biopure Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., said it plans to offer up to 25 million common shares at a discount at the time of pricing. The company also intends to issue warrants to purchase up to 12.5 million additional shares. Based on current market prices, Biopure expects that if all 25 million shares were sold, gross proceeds would total about $12 million; if all warrants are exercised with cash, the company would receive further proceeds of about $6.6 million. But it said there is no minimum amount required to complete the offering, which is expected to close next month. Biopure's stock (NASDAQ:BPUR) dropped 6 cents Friday, or 9 percent, to close at .61 cents.

• Biovitrum AB, of Stockholm, Sweden, acquired oncology technology from Axelar AB, a company established by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Karolinska Innovations AB. The research includes development of molecules that inhibit the IGF-1 receptor, and Biovitrum gained access to a new chemical entity against cancer that it said has demonstrated promising results in preclinical studies. It will be further developed in a collaboration between Biovitrum and the Karolinska researchers who established Axelar. Biovitrum also gained access to other chemical entities that have been developed by the researchers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• DeCode genetics Inc., of Reykjavik, Iceland, said PricewaterhouseCoopers resigned as its independent registered public accounting firm. DeCode noted that PricewaterhouseCoopers, which had been its accounting firm since DeCode's 1996 formation, said there were no disagreements with PricewaterhouseCoopers on any matter of accounting principles or practices, financial statement disclosure, or auditing scope or procedure. DeCode's stock (NASDAQ:DCGN) dropped 60 cents Friday, or 9.5 percent, to close at $5.70 cents.

• Dharmacon Inc., of Lafayette, Colo., added siRNA reagents targeting the mouse and rat genomes to its existing siGenome human siRNA collection. Dharmacon's siGenome is a gene-silencing collection supporting all phases of research, ranging from functional genomics and initial drug target identification to late-stage therapeutic development.

• Encysive Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Houston, said a 24-subject drug interaction study of Thelin (sitaxsentan) and Viagra (sildenafil, from Pfizer Inc.) demonstrated a minor pharmacokinetic drug-drug interaction. Results showed that sildenafil administration did not appear to alter sitaxsentan levels. In the presence of sitaxsentan, the maximum concentration of sildenafil increased by 18 percent and the area under the plasma concentration/time curve increased by 28 percent. No effects on levels of the n-desmethyl sildenafil were observed. Based on the data, the company said Viagra doesn't appear to impact Thelin pharmacokinetics. Thelin, a small molecule that blocks the action of endothelin, is in development for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

• Oscient Pharmaceuticals Corp., of Waltham, Mass., completed the hiring of its sales force for Factive (gemifloxacin mesylate) tablets. The company hired more than 100 people to launch the product, which received FDA approval for the treatment of acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic bronchitis and community-acquired pneumonia of mild to moderate severity.

• PARI GmbH, of Starnberg, Germany, said European regulatory authorities named its inhaled cyclosporine product an orphan drug for use in lung transplant patients. Based on results from research with artificial lung models, PARI expects that when the product is administered with its eFlow membrane nebulizer, the desired therapeutic effect can be achieved with significantly lower doses of inhaled cyclosporine compared to oral therapies while simultaneously minimizing side effects. Cyclosporine is a calcineurine immunosuppressor.

• Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Boston, said it secured an undisclosed amount of funding through a seed round of financing. The company is focused on elucidating the cell biology, biochemistry and regulation of the sirtuins, otherwise known as Class III protein deacetylases, to develop drugs to treat metabolic disease. Polaris Venture Partners led the round; co-lead investors were Cardinal Partners, Skyline Ventures and Techno Venture Management. Sirtris was co-founded by David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, Christoph Westphal, a general partner at Polaris who is serving as the start-up's CEO, and Greatpoint Ventures.

• VioQuest Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Monmouth Junction, N.J., said its ticker symbol changed to "VQPH" on the OTC Bulletin Board. The company, which recently changed its name from Chiral Quest Inc., operates through two subsidiaries: VioQuest Drug Development Inc., created to acquire, develop and commercialize human therapeutics; and Chiral Quest Inc., a chemistry company that provides chiral products, technology and services.

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