• Aventis SA, of Lyon, France, paid a $1 million preclinical milestone payment to Neurogen Corp., of Branford, Conn., as a result of progress in its research and development agreement. The companies are working in an exclusive worldwide collaboration to develop drugs that target corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF-1) for depression, anxiety and other stress-related disorders. CRF-1 is a hormone in the brain known to be involved in the body's response to stress, though current depression and anxiety therapies work through the regulation of other mechanisms, Neurogen said.

The BIRD-F (Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation) designated $9.1 million in 10 new projects worth a total of about $23 million, but only one in the life sciences. The BIRD-F board of governors on Dec. 15 allocated the pay-back-from-profits-only investments intended to promote Israeli and American strategic technological partnerships. Ethrog Biotechnologies Ltd., of Ness Ziona, Israel, and Invitrogen Corp., of San Diego, received one of the cooperative projects to develop a molecular biology technology to improve on their long-life electrophoresis gels.

• Elan Corp. plc, of Dublin, Ireland, intends to sell its European sales and marketing business for about $120 million to Medeus UK Ltd., a new UK pharmaceutical business backed by Apax Partners Funds. Elan plans to retain operations in Athlone, Ireland, and its research and development operations in Stevenage, UK, and separately expects to sell certain rights to two products in the UK and Ireland for about $10 million. The transaction with Medeus includes the divestment of its sales and marketing operation in the UK and 100 percent of the equity in Elan sales and marketing affiliates in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Ireland. In 2002, Elan recorded net revenue and gross profits for those products of $70.1 million and $50.7 million, respectively. For the first nine months of 2003, Elan recorded net revenue and gross profit for those products of $56.4 million and $38.7 million, respectively. Elan believes it will record a pretax gain of about $10 million from the transaction.

• Genopole, France's national biotechnology business and science park in Evry, south of Paris, reported that the firms located on its campus attracted 56 percent of the total capital invested in the French biotechnology industry in 2003. The firms it incubated accounted for 62 percent of the total funds raised in initial funding rounds, or €6.5 million out of €10.5 million, and for 55 percent of the total of second-round financings, or €21 million out of €38.1 million. Two starts-ups completed first-round financings: Gene Signal raised €2.5 million in February and BioMethodes raised €4.5 million in October. Three companies completed second funding rounds: Urogene, which netted €12 million; Nautilus Biotech, which raised €4 million; and Novagali Pharma, which reported in November that it had so far raised €5 million in its second round but was still seeking another €3 million to €5 million. Another Genopole start-up, ObeTherapy Biotechnology, is negotiating a second funding round of €7 million.

• NsGene A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, raised DKK18 million (US$3 million) after closing a second round of private equity funding from existing investors. The financing included NeuroSearch A/S, from which NsGene was spun off, as well as other investors, and it increased the company's total funding raised to date to DKK83 million. Privately held NsGene said the latest funding puts it in a position to further develop its technologies and products to the point of partnering opportunities in the next couple of years. The company is developing cell- and gene-based products for neurological diseases.

• Trinity Biotech plc, of Dublin, Ireland, received FDA approval to market Uni-Gold Recombigen HIV test for detection of antibodies to HIV in human serum, plasma or whole blood. The company called the device the first to be approved for use with all three sample types. Uni-Gold Recombigen HIV, which demonstrated a test sensitivity of 100 percent and a specificity of more than 99.7 percent among 9,000 patients, requires only one step and produces a result within 10 minutes.

The UniProt Consortium, composed of the UK-based European Bioinformatics Institute, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and the Protein Information Resource at the University of Georgetown in Washington developed and put online a protein database called UniProt, which brings together information from three separate databases. The group expects UniProt to become the primary information resource for proteomic data. Concurrently, Genomining, of Montrouge, France, said users of its GetDB remote database download and installation system could gain immediate access to UniProt by downloading a special patch. GetDB enables remote molecular biology databases to be processed, classified and exploited in real-time. In particular, it ensures that new data are immediately downloaded, that outdated information is managed and removed, and that the data syntax is usable at each particular site.