Adprotech Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, was granted orphan drug status by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency for APT070 in the prevention of graft dysfunction in kidney transplants. APT070 is scheduled to enter Phase II trials at a number of transplant sites in the fourth quarter. The compound is designed to protect transplanted organs, particularly those from dead donors, from reperfusion injury.
Ark Therapeutics Ltd., of London, started clinical trials of EG010, a point-of-care test kit for cardiovascular disease. The kit measures oxidized-low density lipoproteins (Ox-LDL), which are found in the fatty plaques that line the walls of the coronary artery in patients with atherosclerosis, but not in healthy coronary arteries. In a previous study in Finland, the EG010 test demonstrated a significant correlation between levels of Ox-LDL and the severity of a patient's heart disease.
BioImage A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, made a number of board changes intended to reflect its transition from a platform technology company to a fully fledged drug discovery outfit. It promoted nonexecutive board member Edwin Moses to chairman. Moses, the former president of Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, replaces Bruce Carter, CEO of Zymogenetics Inc., of Seattle, who remains a director of the company. Barry Ross, former head of research at Glaxo UK [now GlaxoSmithKline plc] has also joined the board. Axel Ullrich, of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, and a scientific co-founder of Sugen Inc., now owned by Pharmacia Corp., of Peapack, N.J., stepped down from the board, but heads a newly formed scientific advisory board.
Biosearch Italia SpA, of Milan, Italy, said it received funding of €6.5 million from the Italian Ministry of Productive Activities to support development of its novel antibiotic compounds. Forty percent of the funding comprises a nonrefundable grant. The remainder takes the form of a soft loan repayable at a 1 percent interest rate. The company will use the cash for both preclinical and clinical development and for manufacturing process development. It will focus on areas such as strain improvement, fermentation development and product optimization. Biosearch, which was formed in 1996 through a management buyout from Hoechst-Marion-Roussel, entered a US$260.7 million merger agreement with Versicor Inc., of Fremont, Calif., in July.
ML Laboratories plc, of Warrington, UK, said it changed its mind about selling its respiratory division, Innovate Biomed (IB), after agreeing to a deal with an undisclosed pharmaceutical company to market and distribute two drugs in IB's breath-actuated dry powder inhaler, Clickhaler. The agreement includes access fees and milestone payments of £10 million (US$15.7 million), and double-digit royalties following launch, the first of which is anticipated in 2003. In addition, IB will supply the inhaler.
Migragen AG, of Tuebingen, Germany, appointed Lucio van Rooijen president and chief executive officer. Van Rooijen worked for 12 years in the pharmaceutical division of Bayer AG. Most recently, van Rooijen was vice president for business development with Xzillion, a proteomics solution provider, which was part of the Aventis group. Migragen is a privately held company founded in 2000 that specializes in treatments for injuries to and diseases of the central nervous system, as well as brain tumors. Van Rooijen succeeds Bernhard Mueller, one of Migragen's founders, who will remain with the company as chief scientific officer.
Mologen AG, of Berlin, will work together with a major U.S. pharmaceutical concern to carry out a feasibility study on a veterinary vaccine based on Mologen's MIDGE vector technology. Mologen's vector combines elements of both viral and plasmid vectors, and the company believes that it is suitable for delivering vaccinations in both humans and animals. The test is expected to be concluded within nine months, with a licensing agreement a likely prospect if the test is successful. Mologen declined to name the U.S. partner.
PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc, of Oxford, UK, started a Phase I study of its powder injection flu vaccine, Fluvirin. The study will compare Fluvirin as a powder, administered by needle-free injection, to the company's currently marketed liquid equivalent, administered via a traditional needle. The powder delivery system has been tested previously in Phase II studies with the local anesthetic lidocaine.
Proteom Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, signed up SC Biosciences Corp., of Tokyo, to market Proteom's bioinformatics technology to Japanese pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The technology can be used in structure-based drug design to design protein ligands, identify protein-binding sites and define protein-protein interactions. No financial details were disclosed.
ReNeuron Holdings plc, of Guildford, UK, said it has overcome the problems of genetic instability it was having in certain of its cell lines. It has secured worldwide rights to a patent from Amrad Corp Ltd., of Australia, to use c-Myc and related genes to immortalize neural cells. ReNeuron is working to derive c-Myc immortalized cells to treat Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and stroke, and anticipates starting Phase I trials in 2004. The company also said it has terminated its agreement with Vistagen Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Burlingame, Calif., formed in July 2001, for Vistagen to use ReNeuron's stem cells in drug discovery.
Ribotargets Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, which uses structure-based technologies to develop antibiotics and anticancer drugs, is joining 10 other groups in a European Union project to discover antibacterials and antifungals that work by inhibiting RNA. Ribotarget's contribution will involve developing high-throughput screening assays and crystallizing bacterial and fungal ribosomes, allowing their structures to be determined.
Skyepharma plc, of London, acquired certain Pacific Rim marketing rights for Solarase, its topical cream for the precancerous skin condition actinic keratosis, from Meditech Research Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia. Skyepharma gains rights in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. It now plans to carry out a clinical trial in Australia and will make an up-front payment and pay Meditech a milestone on eventual registration, plus royalties.