• ActivBiotics Inc., of Lexington, Mass., appointed Steven Gilman president and CEO. Most recently he was at Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., where he held a number of senior management positions, including vice president and general manager of the inflammation business. Privately held ActivBiotics is developing antibiotics for infectious diseases.

• Aphios Corp., of Woburn, Mass., executed a materiel transfer agreement with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., to access its natural products repository of terrestrial plants and marine organisms. The company said that from 1981 to 2002, and covering all diseases, countries and sources, 52 percent of the 1,031 new chemical entities, 60 percent of cancer drugs and 71 percent of anti-infectives that were approved by regulatory bodies were based on natural products isolated from such plants and microorganisms.

• Arachnova Therapeutics Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, entered a data-access and licensing deal with Mitsubishi Pharma Corp., of Tokyo, involving a new use of MCI-225 for therapeutic use in pain, stress urinary incontinence and functional bowel disorder. Mitsubishi advanced it into Phase II studies for depression, but did not carry the compound into further development. Under the agreement, financial terms of which were not disclosed, Arachnova will receive access and rights to use the data, as well as raw material from Mitsubishi for development in the new indications. Arachnova said it would reconfigure the safety data to allow for entry into Phase II development.

• Atrix Laboratories Inc., of Fort Collins, Colo., signed a limited feasibility agreement with Aventis SA, of Strasbourg, France, to begin research on two specific compounds formulated with Atrix's delivery technology, Atrigel. The compounds are for an undisclosed therapeutic area. Atrix focuses on extended-release and topical technologies to develop products in oncology, pain management and dermatology.

• Corgenix Medical Corp., of Denver, and Genesis Bioventures Inc., of Surrey, British Columbia, signed a stock-swap merger agreement in which Genesis will issue 14 million shares of its common stock - worth about $10 million - in exchange for all of Corgenix's outstanding shares. Corgenix's management team will manage the combined entity, to be called Genesis Bioventures Inc., headquartered in Westminster, Colo. The two CEOs of Corgenix and Genesis will co-chair the combined entity. The merger is conditional upon the successful completion of a $6 million second-round financing. Genesis completed a first merger-related round of $2 million that will cover Mammastatin breast cancer diagnosis system license payments, debt and general operating activities. Genesis also will advance $500,000 to Corgenix from the first round. The merger brings together Genesis' cancer technology and prion-disease position with Corgenix's manufacturing facility and worldwide distribution network.

• Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, provided a nonexclusive, worldwide license to its PER.C6 technology to NeoTropiX Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., for research and clinical development of viral therapy products in the field of oncology, with an option for a commercial license. Crucell will receive up-front and annual payments. Separately, Crucell said ML Laboratories plc, of London, decided to renew its PER.C6 license agreement. The parties negotiated research and commercial terms for gene therapy products developed and manufactured with the technology. Further financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

• De Novo Ventures, of Menlo Park, Calif., reported the close of its second venture fund, De Novo Ventures II. The $250 million fund was oversubscribed and exceeded the original fund-raising target of $200 million. It will be invested in seed and early stage medical technology and biotechnology opportunities. The primary focus of De Novo Ventures II is in therapeutic medical devices and biotechnology. That includes emerging device opportunities in a variety of areas and biotech companies with initial clinical trial experience, it said.

• HTG Inc., of Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Treatment & Diagnosis in Bethesda, Md. HTG will use the funds to identify and validate sets of genes for toxicity studies and develop a new array product based on its existing technology platform.

• Impath Inc., of New York, formed an agreement with Cell Analysis, a privately held life sciences company, to provide Cell Analysis' Quantitative Cellular Assessment system exclusively to Impath clients. Impath expects to launch the system early in the second quarter. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The FDA cleared the system for estrogen receptor markers in breast cancer, and is expected to clear it for the oncoprotein Her2/neu later this year. The system analyzes tumor cells for predictive and prognostic markers using quantitative image analysis of nuclear and membrane antigens.

• Interleukin Genetics Inc., of Waltham, Mass., signed a distribution agreement with Access Business Group International LLC, a subsidiary of Alticor Inc., of Ada, Mich., for DNA-based risk-assessment tests. With the agreement, Interleukin achieved a milestone under the stock-purchase agreement dated March 5 between Interleukin and Alticor. The milestone was considered achieved when Interleukin entered a genetic testing agreement with one or more customers of such size that the projected internal rate of return is at least 20 percent with a pay-back period of three years or less. Alticor made an additional $2 million capital contribution to Interleukin without receiving additional shares as the milestone payment. (See BioWorld Today, March 7, 2004.)

• Linden Bioscience, a division of Linden Technologies Inc., of Woburn, Mass., said it reduced prices of its Expression Snapshot mRNA Archiving and Retranscription kits. The RNA amplification kit is used for gene expression analysis studies with RNA samples that are difficult to obtain or expensive to produce. Unlike other methods that consume the sample RNA during the amplification process, the system provides an archival dsDNA representation of the original RNA sample that can be stored and retranscribed repeatedly over several months.

• NitroMed Inc., of Bedford, Mass., said an independent data safety and monitoring board recommended that the company continue its Phase III trial of BiDil, its lead product in development for treating African-American patients with heart failure. The board found no safety concerns that would require protocol changes following a planned third safety analysis of the trial called A-HeFT (the African-American Heart Failure Trial). NitroMed added that this summer, the board would analyze similar data from the study, which is enrolling 1,100 patients in more than 160 U.S. sites.

• Panacos Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., began a Phase I trial of its small-molecule HIV drug candidate, PA-457. PA-457 has activity against HIV strains resistant to current therapies, including inhibitors of reverse transcriptase and viral protease, the company said. In the Phase I trial, PA-457 is being administered orally to uninfected, healthy volunteers.

• Pharmos Corp., of Iselin, N.J., said it completed enrollment in its pivotal study of dexanabinol for the treatment of severe traumatic brain injury. A total of 86 trauma centers throughout the U.S., Europe, Israel and Australia participated in the recruitment of 860 patients to the Phase III trial. The company expects to un-blind the data and report initial results near the end of this year. The study began more than three years ago. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 11, 2001.)

• QLT Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Novartis Ophthalmics, a unit of Novartis Pharma AG, of Basel, Switzerland, said the Medicare allowable reimbursement rate for its Visudyne product moved from $1,304 to $1,404. The companies learned of the change from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which determined the rate using the average selling price of Visudyne in the fourth quarter, plus 6 percent. QLT and Novartis expect the rate to increase again next year, QLT said.

• Serono SA, of Geneva, said Swiss regulatory authorities approved Raptiva (efalizumab) for adult patients with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. The first biological therapy for psoriasis approved in Switzerland, the injectable product is marketed in the U.S. through a partnership between Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco, and XOMA Ltd., of Berkeley, Calif. It received FDA approval last fall. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 29, 2003.)

• TaiGen Biotechnology Co. Ltd., of Taipei, Taiwan, raised $38 million through the first closing of its Series B round of financing. The company said it expects a second closing later this year, with the private placement's initial funding led by China Steel. Returning investors included MPM Capital, Development Fund, YFY Group, China Development Industrial Bank, Shin Kong Life Insurance and Cathay Life Insurance. TaiGen said it would use the funds to further its internal research and development programs, as well as clinical development of in-licensed drug candidates. The company is focused on immune disorders, cancer and viral infection. Its $37 million Series A financing closed in July 2001, after which TaiGen advanced three of its discovery programs - stem cell mobilization, Th1-mediated chronic inflammation and an antiviral for severe acute respiratory syndrome - into preclinical development. A partnered compound for brain cancer is scheduled to enter the clinic early next year.

• VaxGen Inc., of Brisbane, Calif., filed a form with the SEC indicating that the company will require up to 15 additional calendar days from March 15 to file its 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31. VaxGen is developing biologic products for infectious disease.