Amaxa GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, restructured and laid off 20 percent of its staff, reducing the number of employees to 80. The company will concentrate on further development and marketing of Nucleofactor, its nonviral gene transfer technology. Amaxa expects to reach profitability in 2003 without raising additional venture capital. Company CEO Rainer Christine cited the difficult venture market as a factor in the layoffs. Amaxa was founded in 1998 and closed a second financing round of EUR 13 million in May 2001.
GeneScan Europe AG, of Freiburg, Germany, made AgriQuality, a state-owned enterprise based in Auckland, New Zealand, its exclusive licensee in Oceania for its genetically modified organism testing technology. AgriQuality is a regional market leader in food and feed testing, as well as biosecurity and related fields. GeneScan concentrates on molecular biological testing, and its products include testing services, kits and consulting. AgriQuality was founded in 1998 out of parts of the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. GeneScan's Australian subsidiary will concentrate on the company's biochip business. Revenues from the license for GeneScan will depend on the sales achieved by AgriQuality, a spokesperson said.
Immuno-Designed Molecules SA, of Paris, signed an agreement with San Diego-based Epimmune Inc. granting it an option to develop several of the U.S. company's antigenic peptides for use in its products. IDM, which is developing cell therapies and therapeutic vaccines for various cancers, is to develop those peptides in combination with its proprietary dendritic cells, or dendritophages, including Epimmune's antigens in the composition of several of its cell drugs. IDM will start by incorporating one of those antigens in a cell drug for colorectal cancer for testing in a Phase I/II trial. The trial will begin in the U.S. in 2003 and will be conducted by IDM's Irvine, Calif.-based subsidiary, IDM Inc.
KS Biomedix Holdings plc, of Guildford, UK, presented results from the Phase II trial of TransMID, its treatment for brain cancer, at the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Nice, France. The U.S. trial involved 44 patients, all of whom had failed existing treatments for recurrent high-grade gliomas. Of 34 patients evaluated, five were considered to have complete responses, while 16 had partial responses. Thirteen patients survived for more than one year and one has survived for more than four years, following further treatment with TransMID. The product uses the protein transferrin to deliver diphtheria toxin preferentially to cancer cells.
LION Bioscience AG, of Heidelberg, Germany, issued a profit warning for the business year ending March 31, 2003, based on preliminary results from the second quarter. The company expects a drop of up to 25 percent from the previous year's results of €40.4 million. The company also took write-offs of €62.1 million. Another write-off of €8.5 million from a strategic investment is expected. The company said that the write-offs will not affect its liquidity, and also that it expects to meet its goal of attaining profitability in the fourth quarter of 2004. Lion's stock fell almost 12 percent, to €2.60, on the news.
Morphochem AG, of Munich, Germany, which specializes in chemical genomics, and the Fox Chase Cancer Center, of Philadelphia, entered a research collaboration to develop new treatments for cancer. The partnership provides for multiple research projects, with an initial focus on moving new compounds in the area of Ras pathway modulators into clinical testing. Morphochem will fund the research work and will retain full commercial rights to any products or technologies emerging from the collaboration. Financial terms were not disclosed. Morphochem, a privately held, venture-backed company, is undertaking drug discovery in a range of fields from infectious and inflammatory diseases to metabolism to cancer. Fox Chase is an independent, nonprofit institution devoted to improving cancer treatment and prevention.
Provalis plc, of Deeside, UK, said in its annual statement that the adverse market conditions are hampering the process of selling its vaccines R&D programs. However, projects have stopped and the R&D cash burn has been reduced substantially.
Pharming Group NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, said its legal moratorium formally ended Saturday, following final court approval of its settlement offered to creditors. The decision also covers subsidiary companies Pharming BV, Pharming Technologies, Pharming Intellectual Property BV and Broekman Instituut BV, and it ends the bankruptcy status of Pharming Intellectual Property BV. The company, which originally filed for legal protection from its creditors in August last year, has undergone significant restructuring and recently secured new equity and debt financing of €8.2 million.
Ribotargets Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, made the move from drug discovery to drug development, entering a worldwide license agreement to develop alphadone and other related neurosteroids for the treatment of cancer pain. Alphadone, discovered at Monash University in Australia is in preclinical development. However, previously it completed a pilot study in postoperative pain. In combination, the orally administered compound increases the analgesic action of morphine, while on its own it produces analgesia in the absence of sedation, and is expected to be free of the dose-limiting side effects of other opiods.
Sireen AG, of Martinsried, Germany, closed its first financing round, raising €5 million from a syndicate of investors led by DVC Deutsche Venture Capital and including ABN AMRO Capital. Seed capital for the company, which was founded in January, came from Novartis Venture Funds and BioM AG, both of which also invested in the present round. Sireen is a drug development company that focuses on small-molecule inhibitors. It has research and development alliances with Ascenion GmbH, of Munich, and Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany.
Xerion Pharmaceuticals AG, of Martinsried, Germany, will develop four antibodies for colon cancer therapy jointly with Arius Research Inc., of Toronto. Arius concentrates on discovering functional antibodies, while Xerion specializes in validating drug targets. Under the agreement, the companies may share licensing revenues, co-develop the targets, or buy out the other party for an exclusive license. Financial terms were not disclosed. Xerion recently raised €12.3 million in additional venture financing. (See BioWorld International, Oct. 9, 2002.)