• Actelion Ltd., of Allschwil, Switzerland, presented positive results from a study of Tracleer to treat scleroderma patients suffering from digital ulcerations. The controlled, multicenter study of 122 patients, undertaken with the Boston University School of Medicine, showed significant reduction in the occurrence of new digital ulcers, which are painful and difficult-to-heal open sores that occur in at least 25 percent of scleroderma patients. Scleroderma is an autoimmune rheumatic disease in which connective tissue accumulates in the skin and internal organs. Tracleer is already approved for treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension. The company is applying for orphan drug status for the digital ulcer indication and expects to begin another study in the second half of 2003.

• Berna Biotech AG, of Bern, Switzerland, entered a strategic alliance with Shire Pharmaceuticals Group plc for commercialization of products in its influenza and hepatitis B vaccine franchises. Shire receives exclusive European rights for the commercialization of Berna Biotech's hepatitis B vaccines, Hepavax Gene and Bio-Hep-B. Berna Biotech receives exclusive rights for the commercialization of Shire's influenza vaccine, Fluviral, in territories outside North America and Europe. Profits will be shared equally.

• Bresagen Ltd., of Adelaide, Australia, has been contracted by another Australian biotech company, Metabolic Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Melbourne, to develop a large-scale manufacturing method for Metabolic's obesity drug, AOD9604.

• Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, of Cambridge, UK, entered a collaboration with Entropia Inc., of San Diego, to use Entropia's PC grid computing technology to accelerate virtual screening. CCDC is a charity devoted to the acquisition, evaluation, dissemination and use of the world's output of small-molecule crystal structures. It will work with Entropia to use grid computing to access the untapped processing power of personal computers for virtual screening of large chemical libraries.

• Cambridge Antibody Technology plc, of Melbourn, UK, announced a second agreement with Merck & Co. Inc. for Merck to use its human phage antibody libraries. CAT will get an up-front license fee and may receive future option, milestone and royalty payments. The original deal, entered a year ago, was CAT's first alliance in the area of infectious diseases; this agreement will see CAT's antibody technology being applied more widely by Merck. Meanwhile, another CAT partner, Abbott Laboratories, presented pivotal Phase III data on D2E7 (Humira), which was discovered by CAT, in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The radiographic data on structural joint damage following one year of therapy show Humira slowed progression of bone damage, while a second study showed that after three years, nearly one quarter of patients were in remission. The product was well tolerated and led to improvements in the quality of life of patients. Abbott has filed for U.S. and European approval of Humira, which is expected to be the first fully human monoclonal antibody to reach the market.

• DxS Ltd., of Manchester, UK, entered a licensing agreement and research collaboration for its Scorpions nucleic acid detection technology with Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics Inc., part of Johnson & Johnson. The license gives nonexclusive rights to use the Scorpions, a rapid method of identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms in dried blood samples, in the development of cancer diagnostics.

• Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, completed its assay development program with Altana Pharma AG, of Konstanz, Germany, triggering the second milestone payment of the partnership. Evotec's cell analyzer, a confocal imaging reader for fast, high-content analysis known as Opera, will be integrated into Altana's discovery unit. Financial terms were not disclosed. Evotec also extended its screening technology partnership with Pfizer Inc., of New York, which began in 1999. The three-year agreement, which calls for Evotec to provide instruments for ultra-high-throughput screening, could bring more than $25 million to the German company. Pfizer also agreed to make an equity investment in Evotec's instrumentation affiliate, Evotech Technologies GmbH.

• Pharmagene plc, of Royston, UK, said Shionogi and Co. Ltd. has signed four new agreements for access to Pharmagene's target and compound validation technologies, bringing to nine the number of partnerships Pharmagene has signed in Japan. The financial terms were not disclosed. The two will carry out a proof-of-concept study to obtain information on the expression of key genes in a range of diseased and nondiseased human tissues and to provide further data on the cellular localization of specific drug targets in human tissue.