• Autogen Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, was paid A$1.4 million (US$780,000) by Merck KgaA, of Darmstadt, Germany, as a milestone payment for work on a gene originally identified by Autogen. Merck will continue to work on the gene, AGT203, one of a number identified by Autogen as connected with obesity and diabetes.

• BioFocus plc, of Sittingbourne, UK, entered a collaboration with Mitsubishi Pharma Corp., of Tokyo, under which the UK company will provide high-throughput screening services. Mitsubishi will transfer undisclosed assay protocols to BioFocus. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Cerep SA, of Paris, signed a research collaboration agreement with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, for the performance of drug profiling activities and the supply of relevant information emanating from its proprietary database BioPrint. The deal provides for Lilly and Cerep to undertake an "intensive profiling" program to "define the chemical space that is most suitable for use in discovering lead compounds that are active against important target classes of pharmaceutical interest. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• Cerylid Biosciences Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, received an A$2.2 million (US$1.3 million) grant under a federal government research program to progress a compound into clinical development. Cerylid will use the money to progress the anticancer compound CBL316, synthesized from the bark of a tree in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

CliniGenetics SA, of N mes, France, extended its partnership with the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, through an agreement with K.U. Leuven Research and Development. The agreement gives CliniGenetics exclusive rights to use K.U. Leuven's living-pig reference model, the minipig, for use in the cardiovascular disease field. The minipig model exhibits physiological and metabolic characteristics similar to those in humans, the companies said. Financial terms were not disclosed. CliniGenetics has produced a complete phenotype of the model, and with the help of its bioinformatics programs Express-Profiler and Vascular-Resolver, has identified the genes involved in the expression of atherosclerotic disorders. As well as using the model to evaluate the efficacy of the compounds it has developed, CliniGenetics has contracted with the French drug-profiling company Cerep SA, of Rueil-Malmaison, France, to screen and validate candidate compounds.

• IsoTis SA, of Lausanne, Switzerland, said it would dispose of its majority-owned drug delivery subsidiary, Chienna BV, through a trade sale to OctoPlus BV, of Leiden, the Netherlands. IsoTis holds a 92.5 percent stake in Chienna, which has 13 employees. The company had been established as a standalone subsidiary in July 2002. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the deal is expected to close this quarter.

• NeuroSearch A/S, of Ballerup, Denmark, said it is initiating a double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase II trial of its epilepsy drug candidate, NS1209. Ten patients with epilepsy will participate in the dose-finding study, which will by followed by a more extensive Phase II trial in patients that suffer from long-lasting seizures. In preclinical studies, NS1209 was shown to stop seizures more effectively than current anti-epileptic drugs, and it also prevented the development of spontaneous seizures that can occur eight to 12 weeks after the first long-lasting seizures. The compound was well tolerated in previous Phase I trials in 70 healthy volunteers.

• Resistentia Pharmaceuticals AB, of Uppsala, Sweden, said it signed a £2 million manufacturing agreement with Excell Biotech, of Livingston, Scotland, covering process development and production of toxicological and cGMP-grade protein material. Resistentia, which is developing a therapeutic vaccine for the treatment for allergy, intends to use the clinical-grade material in Phase I and Phase IIa trials. Its therapeutic strategy is based on reducing the levels of IgE in allergic patients.

The UK BioIndustry Association has a new CEO, Aisling Burnand, formerly the deputy chief executive. Crispin Kirkman, the former CEO, stepped down on the completion of a three-year contract. He is to continue to work for the association as a special adviser with particular responsibility for European issues. Burnand has worked for the BIA since 1998, when she joined as director of public affairs. She was appointed deputy chief executive in 2001.