• British Biotech plc, of Oxford, UK, said Phase I data on BB-10901 showed the antibody-directed chemotherapy agent can be safely administered at doses comparable to those that produced antitumor activity in preclinical models. The study in small-cell lung cancer showed preliminary evidence of antitumor activity. British Biotech and partner ImmunoGen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., are discussing progression to Phase II with regulators. The product is also in a second Phase I study in the UK.

• Cambridge Antibody Technology plc, of Royston, UK, is to spin out work on the use of industrial-scale microarray technology in personalized medicine into a separate company. Kevin Johnson, CAT's chief technology officer, will lead this business, for which CAT will be seeking independent financing. CAT also gave an update on its clinical pipeline, announcing it has submitted an IND to the FDA for CAT-152 for the prevention of scarring following surgery for glaucoma. The antibody recently entered a Phase III trial in Europe and South Africa. The company also said recruitment has begun in a Phase I/II challenge study of CAT-213, a human anti-eotaxin-1 antibody, in the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis. The product has already successfully completed a Phase I/II challenge study in allergic rhinitis.

• Cancer Research Technology Ltd., of London, entered an industrial/academic collaboration to develop RNA interference (RNAi) gene silencing as a tool for target validation and drug discovery. The collaboration brings together Cambridge University with Cyclacel Ltd., of Dundee, UK, and an unnamed pharmaceutical company. CRT, the technology transfer arm of the research charity Cancer Research UK, is the holder of two key patents on the use of RNAi in sequence-driven gene-specific silencing in mammals. It is researching the use of RNAi for the inhibition of genes that are aberrantly expressed in cancers and for the development of high-throughput systems for the analysis of mammalian gene function in drug discovery.

• Cobra Biomanufacturing plc, of Keele, UK, announced an agreement to manufacture a DNA vaccine against AIDS for the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI). The vaccine will be based on a DNA sequence that elicits an immune response against the Clade C form of HIV, the most prevalent form of the virus in Africa and Asia, which was developed at the University of Cape Town. Cobra initially will supply the DNA for Phase I/II clinical trials, and may also supply DNA for commercial sales. SAAVI will hold all southern African rights to the vaccine, while Cobra will have rights to market the vaccine elsewhere.

• ESBATech AG, of Zurich, Switzerland, said it added an extra CHF4 million (US$2.7 million) to its second round of funding, which it originally closed off in May with CHF10.5 million. Two new investors, Zurich-based Innoventure Capital AG and Venture Incubator AG, of Zug, have joined the company's list of backers. The company, a spin-off from the Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Zurich, is developing yeast-cell assays for studying interactions between targets and drug candidates in vivo. It said it now has sufficient funding to last until the middle of 2004.

• Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, entered into several drug discovery and development partnerships. First, Evotec will be the preferred integrated drug discovery and development service provider for the portfolio companies of Oxford Bioscience Partners (OBP), a life science venture capital firm in Boston. The three-year agreement will give OBP affiliates access to dedicated resources for services from Evotec. The first OBP company has already completed an agreement. Elixir Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., a genomics-based drug discovery company developing pharmaceuticals that slow aging and delay the onset of age-related diseases, signed a three-year agreement for Evotec to provide a broad range of chemical and biological services. Finally, Evotec extended for one year its focused library agreement with Solvay Pharmaceuticals, of Marietta, Ga. Evotec will design and synthesize collections of small molecules, which Solvay will screen against its targets. Financial details were not disclosed for any of the partnerships.

• Galapagos Genomics NV, of Mechelen, Belgium, said it received a grant of €1.2 from the Flemish Institute for the Promotion of Industrial Scientific-Technological Research for bone research. The company plans to use the cash for identifying and validating targets associated with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. It said the grant will broaden the scope of its osteogenesis program, which is focused on developing new drugs that stimulate bone formation, as opposed to current treatments, which focus on minimizing bone loss.

• Immuno-Designed Molecules SA, of Paris, announced positive initial results in a Phase I/II clinical trial of its prostate cancer vaccine, Eladem. The therapy entails isolating patients' monocytes through cytapheresis, culturing them, and then loading them with recombinant human prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The resulting cells can be administered through three different routes - intra-dermic, subcutaneous and intravenous. The trial was carried out in four French hospitals between 1999 and 2001 on 24 patients suffering a renewed onset of cancer following a prostatectomy. Their modified cells were administered in nine sessions over a five-month period. In six of the 24 patients, the cancerous cells in circulation at the start of the trial had disappeared after six months. In 11 others, their PSA levels were reduced, while for another five a specific T-lymphocyte response to the PSA was observed in vitro. No severe clinical or biological secondary effect was observed.

• Ingenium Pharmaceuticals AG, of Martinsried, Germany, and Lynkeus BioTech GmbH, of Wuerzburg, Germany, entered a collaboration under which Ingenium will provide animal models with specific gene alterations to attempt to validate targets from Lynkeus. The companies will focus on genes related to age-related degenerative eye disorders. Ingenium specializes in mammalian models of disease, based on analyzing gene alterations across the entire genome. Lynkeus focuses on therapeutics and diagnostics for eye diseases. Under the agreement, Ingenium will receive payments from Lynkeus, but exact financial details were not disclosed.

• Intercell AG, of Vienna, Austria, began a Phase II study of its therapeutic hepatitis C vaccine. The study is a multicenter, dose-escalation trial among European patients who are hepatitis C-positive and who do not respond to interferon-ribavirin combination therapy, the main treatment presently on the market. About 15 percent to 30 percent of those with hepatitis C do not respond to interferon-ribavirin therapy. Intercell's vaccine combines a pool of five peptides, which make up various components of the hepatitis C virus, and poly-L-arginine, which is known to stimulate the immune system. These peptides were identified through studies of people with natural immunity to HCV. Intercell, which was founded in 1998, specializes in therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines against infectious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and certain cancers.

• Morphochem AG, of Munich, Germany, which specializes in chemical genomics, began a research collaboration with AstraZeneca AB, of Sodertalje, Sweden, to discover novel compounds that affect a target involved in thrombosis hemostasis. The goal is to develop treatments for thrombolytic disorders. AstraZeneca will fund research at Morphochem that will include compound design, chemistry and primary compound screening. The company also will be evaluating Morphochem's approach to drug discovery. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• NascaCell GmbH, of Tutzing, Germany has signed an agreement with Qiagen NV, of Venlo, the Netherlands, to collaborate on developing assay systems. Qiagen will incorporate NascaCell's NAB conversion technology into its LiquiChip detection platform. The NascaCell technology is a screening system designed to be applied to phosphatases and protein-protein interactions. The agreement builds on an existing screening partnership between the companies. Financial terms were not disclosed.

• PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc, of Oxford, UK, said it would accelerate plans to expand its flu vaccine manufacturing capacity, following the announcement that Wyeth, of Madison, N.J., is stopping production of its FluShield vaccine. PowderJect has already announced plans to increase production from 27 million doses this winter to 35 million next year and 45 million in the 2004-05 flu season, and said it now intends to speed up this investment. Analyst Robin Campbell at WestLB Panmure, in London, said Wyeth's withdrawal is "very good news" for PowderJect, as the flu vaccine market is capacity constrained. Prices have risen from under US$4 per dose in 2000 to $7.50 per dose in 2002, and Wyeth's exit means price increases could continue.

• ReNeuron Holdings plc, of Guildford, UK, said it has overcome problems with the stability of its human stem cell lines, and believes it is on track to start Phase I clinical trials in Parkinson's disease and stroke in the second half of 2004. The company also said it has re-derived its murine stem cell line. GMP banking of these cells is expected in December 2002, and ReNeuron hopes to get approval to start clinical trials in Huntington's disease in 2003.

• SR Pharma plc, of London, said it started a Phase II trial of SRP299 for the treatment of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in children aged 5 to 16. The trial, which aims to recruit 120 patients, will report in 2004. SRP299, being developed in cooperation with Genesis Research and Development Corp. of New Zealand, is a suspension of a killed soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae.

The Nuffield Council for Bioethics (NCB) in London issued a consultation paper on ethical issues raised by pharmacogenomics and invited the public and the industry to comment. The paper poses 20 questions, including whether pharmacogenomic tests should be available over the counter, what regulation is necessary to ensure genetic data are protected and whether pharmacogenomics will increase inequalities in the provision of health care. The NCB, the UK's leading independent body examining ethical issues in the development of medicine and biology, will report back in 2003.

The UK Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research in Salisbury announced an agreement with Alfa Wasserman (AW), of Bologna, Italy, to develop a scaled-up manufacturing process for an unnamed cytokine AW is developing for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

The UK National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which carries out research on behalf of the government to ensure the UK maintains measurement standards, has appointed Jonathan Hanley as head of biotechnology. In this new post Hanley will apply the NPL's knowledge and expertise in metrology and instrumentation to biotechnology, introducing standard measurement procedures to the biotech industry and developing new technologies for biological measurement.

• Vernalis Group plc, of Guildford, UK, saw its shares rise by 20 percent to £1.07 last Wednesday when it announced the first European launch, in Germany, of frovatriptan, its anti-migraine treatment. The product, trade-named Allegro in Europe, is being marketed by Menarini, of Florence, Italy.