• Alizyme plc, of Cambridge, UK, said Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., exercised its rights to ATL-962 for the treatment of obesity and related diseases in Japan. The move triggered a $3 million milestone payment to Alizyme, adding to the $2 million it received when the deal was announced in August. Takeda picked up the option following review of the European Phase IIb trial data, published in September. Alizyme's stock rose by 17 percent to £2.13 last week.

• Antisense Therapeutics Ltd., of Victoria, Australia, said Phase I data of ATL 1102, the company's antisense drug for multiple sclerosis, were favorable for both safety and pharmacokinetics. The company plans to begin a Phase IIa trial, following the selection of appropriate dose levels and regimens, in the second half of this year.

• Argenta Discovery Ltd., of Royston, UK, and TTP LabTech, of Cambridge, UK, entered an agreement to expand Argenta's biology and eADMET capabilities through the incorporation of TTP LabTech's Acumen Explorer screening platform. Argenta and TTP LabTech also will work together to develop screening assays within the drug discovery process. The Acumen Explorer is a laser-scanning fluorescence microplate cytometer that enables the development and execution of cell-based, high-content screens.

• AstraZeneca plc, of London, said Iressa (gefitinib) was recommended for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer after failure of both platinum-based and docetaxel chemotherapies, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Clinical Practice Guidelines published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Iressa is the first lung cancer treatment other than surgery, radiation or chemotherapy to be included in the ASCO guidelines.

• Cenix BioScience GmbH, of Dresden, Germany, appointed Zisi Fotev chief business officer. Fotev previously worked as vice president of business development at Atugen AG, in Berlin. Cenix, founded in 1999, specializes in genome-based high-throughput applications of RNA-mediated interference for discovering and validating new therapeutic drug targets.

• Co.don AG, of Berlin, reported positive results from a study in horse models with the company's chondrotransplant product. The study describes the long-term effectiveness of autologous cartilage transplants in treating damaged cartilage. The company described the results, which were published in Annals of Biomedical Engineering, as "a milestone in reaching broader clinical acceptance" for its methods.

• Cognitive Drug Research Ltd.'s, of Reading, UK, Computerized Cognitive Function Assessment System was selected by Cephalon Inc., of West Chester, Pa., for inclusion in four Phase III trials of the R-isomer of modafinil. The system is being used to assess the degree to which the R-isomer of modafinil effects cognitive function in the treatment of excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome and chronic shift-work sleep disorder.

• CordLife Pte Ltd., of Singapore, established a subsidiary called Cell Sciences Pte Ltd. for the manufacturing, supply-chain management, worldwide sales and marketing of CordLife's line of biotechnology and cellular-growth devices. The products are used in cellular research laboratories and for bio-manufacturing at pharmaceutical companies.

• Cyprotex plc, of Macclesfield, UK, agreed to a three-year deal with F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, to provide in vitro absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion studies of Roche discovery stage compounds. It is the third pharmaceutical company contract that Cyprotex has announced in the past month.

• Faust Pharmaceuticals, of Strasbourg, France, initiated a Phase I trial of FP0011 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The drug acts by reducing the presynaptic release of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that causes neuron cell death at high concentrations. The study is being conducted in France and should be completed by the end of the second quarter.

• Jerini AG, of Berlin, and Merck KgaA, of Darmstadt, Germany, formed a collaboration to jointly develop small-molecule inhibitors against an undisclosed cancer target. Prior to the agreement, Jerini identified small-molecule leads, which the companies will further develop with preclinical development starting in 2005. Jerini will receive an up-front payment, personnel funding, milestone payments and royalties, while Merck gains worldwide rights for all indications in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and thyroid disorders. Jerini could receive more than €50 million if the product is approved.

• Lonza Group Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, entered a collaboration to gain access to a transient expression system for therapeutic proteins from Cytos Biotechnology AG, of Zurich, Switzerland. Lonza received a sole license to manufacture therapeutic proteins for preclinical studies, clinical trials and in-market supply, and was granted the right to sublicense the technology to its customers. Cytos, which retains rights to its expression technology for production and commercialization, received a one-time payment as an access fee. Lonza said it would invest significant resources to develop a manufacturing process for GMP material, and as the development program is carried out, Cytos could earn a development milestone, annual license fees and royalties on Lonza protein sales and technology sublicensing revenues.

• ML Laboratories plc, of Warrington, UK, launched an emergency fund raising to bring in £14.3 million (US$26 million) after expected milestone payments failed to arrive. Executive Chairman Stuart Sim said the company decided to raise money rather than cut back on development projects. The fund raising consists of a rights issue to existing shareholders of 39.6 million shares at 22 pence each, and 31 million shares for cash to new investors, also priced at 22 pence. The rights issue is underwritten by Panmure Gordon and institutional investors have committed to buy the issue for cash. Shares in ML fell by almost 20 percent to 27.5 pence two weeks ago when the company said it needed to raise funds.

• MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, said GPC Biotech AG, also of Martinsried, extended its exclusive license for HuCAL antibodies directed against an MHC Class II target molecule. The collaboration began in 1999 with a goal to develop a new generation of therapeutically active substances to treat autoimmune diseases and certain cancers. GPC said it expects to enter a selected antibody, 1D09C3, into human trials in the second half of this year.

• MWG Biotech AG, of Ebersberg, Germany, introduced a free, web-based siRNA design tool. A special feature of the new bioinformatics service is a built-in Blast function that allows customers to design specific siRNA oligonucleotides to silence specific genes. The new design tool is part of MWG Biotech's ecom system.

• NeuTec Pharma plc, of Manchester, UK, completed recruitment in its Phase II trial of Mycograb for the treatment of acute candidiasis infections. Results of the study, involving 160 patients at 38 centers in Europe and the U.S., are expected in the third quarter. The company said discussions with the European Medicines Evaluation Agency have indicated that if the trial is positive, it could be used to support a marketing application for the use of Mycograb in combination with amphotericin B for the treatment of invasive candidiasis in immunocompetent intensive care patients.

• NicOx SA, of Sophia-Antipolis, France, said that following a review of results from the full Phase II programs of AZD3582, the lead compound in the Cinod class, an independent U.S. clinical consultant advisory board recommended further development in osteoarthritis. The panel agreed that AZD3582 at 375 mg twice daily is an effective treatment for patients with osteoarthritis with analgesic efficacy equivalent to rofecoxib (25 mg once daily) and similar to naproxen (500 mg twice daily). The results also indicated that AZD3582 has an improved gastrointestinal safety profile compared to naproxen.

• Paris Biotech, the incubator of the University of Paris V, and Pasteur BioTop, the biotechnology incubator of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, signed an agreement aimed at making Paris the focal point of business creation in France for start-ups engaged in human health applications of biotechnology. Both incubators were created in December 2000. Since that time, Pasteur BioTop has given birth to 14 new firms, while Paris Biotech currently has 18 firms in incubation and has seen three earlier start-ups move on independently.

• PPL Therapeutics plc, of Edinburgh, UK, agreed to sell its two farms in Scotland for £900,000 (US$1.64 million), as it continues to wind down the company. PPL has been selling off parts of its business and facilities, having been unable to derive profits from the technology that gave rise to Dolly the cloned sheep. (See BioWorld International, Dec. 10, 2003.)

• Produtos Roche QFSA in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Zentaris GmbH, of Frankfurt, Germany, a subsidiary of AEterna Laboratories Inc., of Quebec City, Quebec, entered an agreement for the marketing in Brazil of Impavido (miltefosine), an oral therapy for leishmaniasis. Roche will support Zentaris in the registration process and will market the product for Zentaris in Brazil. Also, Zentaris will supply Impavido to Roche. Both parties will begin clinical bridging trials, as requested by Brazilian health authorities.

• RNAx GmbH, of Berlin, an affiliate of Ribopharma AG, was granted a nonexclusive license from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., to provide research services under a fundamental patent in RNA interference. The licensed patent is the first and only issued patent covering the use of short double-stranded RNAs to elicit RNAi, Alnylam said. RNAx will pay initial and annual license fees, as well as royalties on sales of licensed services.

• Serono SA, of Geneva, reported a 31.3 percent jump in revenues to just over $2 billion in 2003, while net income rose 21.6 percent to $390 million. Its North American sales soared by 44.8 percent to $694.5 million, while European sales were up 31.2 percent to $813.8 million. Neurology has become the company's leading therapeutic field, with sales increasing by 54.9 percent last year to $850 million, almost entirely due to sales of the multiple sclerosis drug Rebif, which were up 49.3 percent to $819.4 million. For 2004, the company anticipates 12 percent revenue growth and a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in net income.

• TTP LabTech Ltd., of Royston, UK, entered a collaborative research and marketing agreement with BD Biosciences Clontech, of San Jose, Calif. BD Biosciences will provide nonexclusive access to a selection of its Novel Fluorescent Proteins for use upon TTP's Acumen Explorer in order to generate validated protocols predominantly for reporter-gene analysis. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Vivascience AG, of Hannover, Germany, said findings published in Proteome Science point to a new method for sample fractionation prior to 2D-Page, showing that its Vivapure prefractionation protocol leads to the detection of three times as many protein spots on 2D-Page when analyzing a fission yeast lysate proteome. The reproducible sample fractionation protocol is based on its Vivapure centrifugal ion-exchange columns. The Vivapure anionic ion exchanger was used to fractionate lysate proteins based on differences in charge.

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