• Aastrom Biosciences Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., received a $100,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to develop a bone marrow stem cell-based treatment of circulation ischemia caused by vascular diseases and diabetes. In the six-month study, Aastrom's single-pass perfusion stem cell technology will be used to create a cell therapy for regeneration of vascular tissue.

• Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill., expanded its immunology trials program to include an additional Phase III study evaluating Humira (adalimumab) for psoriatic arthritis. The compound, already approved for rheumatoid arthritis, is a human monoclonal antibody that works by blocking tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), a human protein thought to play a role in the autoimmune disease's development.

• Abiogen Pharma SpA, of Pisa, Italy, received a positive opinion on the designation of OGP (10-14)L (H-tyrosine-glycine-phenilalanine-glycine-glycine-OH) as an orphan drug for chronic idiopathic myelofibrosis. The product is a pentapeptide and is the smallest active sequence of the natural peptide called osteogenic growth peptide, which exerts its activity on stromal and staminal bone marrow cells.

• Axcan Pharma Inc., of Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, received a non-approvable letter from the FDA related to its re-submitted new drug application for Helicide, for the eradication of Helicobacter pylori. Certain inspection-related issues, first communicated to Axcan last August, remain unresolved and were the basis for the letter. An Italian manufacturer, which produces one of the drug's ingredients, has been unable to implement all required corrective action because of its present financial status, Axcan said. But the company stressed that the FDA has not raised any safety or efficacy issues related to Helicide, which received Canadian approval earlier this year.

• BioTransplant Inc., of Medford, Mass., entered an amended agreement relating to the sale of its Eligix HDM Cell Separation System to Miltenyi Biotec GmbH, of Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. Because certain of the biological materials to be sold to Miltenyi were destroyed in a casualty loss prior to the closing of the transaction, the parties negotiated a reduction in the purchase price for the sale. Miltenyi agreed to pay BioTransplant an up-front payment of $175,000 and royalties of 4 percent to 8 percent on any Miltenyi sales of Eligix products during the lifetime of the patents.

• BTG plc, of West Conshohocken, Pa., acquired exclusive rights to develop MESNA (sodium-2-mercaptoethane sulfonate) as a chemical dissection agent for surgical applications of all types. Preliminary studies have shown that the compound might allow surgeons to tease the tissue apart, breaking disulfide bonds of polypeptide chains. The compound has shown promise when used in concert with other surgical tools to separate pathological and normal tissue in various types of surgical procedures.

• Epoch Biosciences Inc., of Bothell, Wash., terminated a distribution and licensing agreement with Amersham Biosciences, the life sciences business of Amersham plc, of London. The pact, established in 2002, pertained to Amersham's worldwide marketing of Epoch's MGB Eclipse Probe Systems. Amersham failed to meet contractually established sales minimums, Epoch said, adding that it is in discussions with other potential distribution partners for the product line.

• IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp., of San Diego, said the SEC declared effective its registration statement filed in connection with its proposed merger with Biogen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. The proposed merger remains subject to various closing conditions, including approval from both company's stockholders. They have scheduled separate shareholder meetings on Nov. 12. The news was originally disclosed in June. (See BioWorld Today, June 24, 2003.)

• Invest.UK, of Liverpool, UK, the British government's worldwide inward investment agency, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the University of Liverpool. The joint program will support collaborative research activities on the detection, prevention and control of infectious and parasitic diseases and is designed to help create an efficient mechanism for enabling new businesses and licensed intellectual property for commercialization.

• Ionian Technologies Inc., of Upland, Calif., named J. Craig Venter to its board. He currently heads three genomic research institutes and is the former president and founder of Celera Genomics Group, of Rockville, Md. Ionian is focused on molecular diagnostics for emerging and infectious diseases.

• Meridian Bioscience Inc., of Cincinnati, was awarded a contract to manufacture clinical grade recombinant protein Parvovirus B19 vaccine for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Vaccine production will take place at the company's life science manufacturing facility located at its wholly owned subsidiary, Viral Antigens Inc. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will pay about $1.4 million for VAI to manufacture a specific volume of the virus sufficient for Phase I trials to be conducted by NHLBI. Upon completion of Phase I trials, the NHLBI has an option to purchase additional vaccine for Phase II trials. Phase I is expected to begin in November.

• MWG Biotech AG, of Eberserg, Germany, said its new MWG Human 40K Array comprises the most comprehensive gene content available to date for the human genome. Its 40,000 human genes are distributed on just two microarray slides. More than 11,000 genes on the array are classified by gene ontology into functional groups.

• NaPro BioTherapeutics Inc., of Boulder, Colo., said the federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania made a number of rulings in its favor in its patent infringement lawsuit against Mylan Laboratories Inc., of Pittsburgh. The court said Mylan infringes NaPro patents related to both stabilized formulations of paclitaxel and methods for making stable formulations, and that the inventors listed on NaPro's patents were the first to invent the compositions and methods claimed in such patents. The court also adopted NaPro's interpretations of the patent claims asserted against Mylan in the case. NaPro expects another trial, focused on Mylan's claims that NaPro's patents are invalid and unenforceable, to begin by the end of this quarter or in the first quarter of next year. NaPro's stock (NASDAQ:NPRO) gained 28 cents Monday, or 16.9 percent, to close at $1.94.

• Nutra Pharma Corp., of Beverly Hills, Calif., reached a settlement that provides it with licenses to intellectual property of Bio Therapeutics Inc., including four U.S. patents and patents pending for the development of therapies for multiple sclerosis, HIV and other diseases. The company plans to develop products from two platforms: a method for altering the 3-dimensional structure of proteins and peptides, resulting in the preservation of receptor-binding characteristics, and an aerosolized drug delivery system that enhances the permeability of the mucous membranes found in the mouth and throat. The settlement stems from a suit brought on by Bio Therapeutics' decision to withdraw from an acquisition agreement with Nutra Pharma.

• Velcura Therapeutics Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., was awarded a $224,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Velcura is involved in developing therapies for osteoporosis and other bone diseases. The research will be completed in collaboration with Proteomic Research Services, of Ann Arbor, Mich.