Affymetrix Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., was awarded about $4 million from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to fund continued research on mapping previously hidden transcriptional activity. In the May 3, 2002, issue of Science, Affymetrix and researchers from the National Cancer Institute published the first empirical data on uncovered hidden levels of RNA transcription activity in excess of the known gene transcription activity.
Agencourt Bioscience Corp., of Beverly, Mass., was selected to supply its MCPrep Plasmid Purification kits as part of high-throughput screening tasks carried out by the Intramural Sequencing Center, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., whose task it is to sequence, map and compare genomic regions of various species in addition to humans. Agencourt's kits employ its Solid Phase Reversible Immobilization technology, which uses paramagnetic particles and binding reagents to isolate nucleic acids from biomolecular contaminants.
AltaRex Corp., of Waltham, Mass., said Antoine Noujaim resigned as chairman and chief scientific officer to pursue other opportunities. Jacques Lapointe, the company's vice chairman, was appointed chairman, effective immediately. The company said it does not intend to appoint a chief scientific officer at this time.
Avalon Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., relocated its corporate headquarters to Germantown, Md., with the facility expected to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2003. Avalon said the 55,000-square-foot space would be devoted to R&D and would lend itself to expanding the number of employees beyond its current level of 56.
BioFocus plc, of Sittingbourne, UK, entered a drug discovery partnership with Axxima Pharmaceuticals AG, of Martinsried, Germany, which will provide kinase targets for BioFocus to design high-throughput screening assays for the targets. BioFocus will identify hit molecules and pursue lead expansion and optimization programs. Axxima will then perform clinical development of lead molecules and be responsible for commercialization. Specific financial terms were not disclosed, but BioFocus will receive ongoing research fees, interim success-based milestones and royalties following commercialization of any products.
Biomira Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta, said that an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board reviewed safety data from the first 100 patients enrolled in its Phase IIb non-small-cell lung cancer trial with the BLP25 vaccine who had passed the primary treatment period. The board recommended the study continue as planned. The objectives of the trial are to measure the safety and potential survival benefit of BLP25 vaccine in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. Secondary endpoints are quality of life and immune response. The product is partnered with Merck KGaA, of Darmstadt, Germany, as part of a deal that was valued at up to $150 million. (See BioWorld Today, May 4, 2001.)
BioStratum Inc., of Research Triangle Park, N.C., said the FDA granted fast-track status to Pyridorin. Pyridorin is in Phase II trials and being developed to treat diabetic kidney disease. The U.S. Phase II study is fully enrolled and two Phase II trials have been initiated outside the U.S. Pyridorin is a small molecule shown to be active against multiple pathways of advanced glycation end-products.
BioTransplant Inc., of Charlestown, Mass., appointed Donald Hawthorne president and CEO, to succeed Elliot Lebowitz, who was elected chairman of the board. Most recently, Hawthorne served as the president of Hawk & Associates Inc. BioTransplant is developing products to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases, as well as products for organ and tissue transplantation.
Cell Pathways Inc., of Horsham, Pa., initiated a pilot Phase II trial of CP461 as a treatment for Crohn's disease. The open-label, multicenter trial will enroll 30 patients with moderate to severely active Crohn's disease, based on the Crohn's Disease Activity Index, with a score greater than 220 but less than 400. The primary endpoint will be the reduction in the patient's CDAI of 70 points or more. The ability of CP461 to induce a clinical remission, defined as attaining a CDAI level of less than 150, will be a secondary endpoint.
Ceretek LLC, of Alameda, Calif., was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. The Phase I $100,000 grant will be used to advance certain cancer drug discovery programs that target lysophosphatidic acid receptors. Ceretek also focuses on drug discovery targeting lipid G protein-coupled receptors.
Compugen Ltd., of Tel Aviv, Israel, extended its collaboration with Pfizer Global Research and Development, of New York. The collaboration began in late 1998 with the Park-Davis division of Warner-Lambert Co. The continuation agreement provides Pfizer with LEADS, Compugen's computational biology platform for drug discovery, and A4000 and Z3, 2-D gel analysis software packages for advanced proteomic analysis. Financial terms of the new agreement were not disclosed.
Forest Laboratories Inc., of New York, reported at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Stockholm, Sweden, that treatment with investigational memantine in moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer's has been demonstrated to ease the economic burden and reduce care-giving time by more than 50 hours per month compared to placebo. Preclinical data suggest memantine may elicit a neuroprotective effect, including preventing cell death associated with neurotoxicity in glutamate, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in neural pathways associated with learning and memory. Other results suggest memantine may exert a neuroprotective effect on neurons and improve cognition when beta-amyloid toxicity is present.
GeneFormatics Inc., of San Diego, and De Novo Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, entered a collaborative drug discovery program to elucidate inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases, specifically the M10 family. Matrix metalloproteinases are a family of naturally occurring enzymes involved in tissue growth and wound repair. GeneFormatics will use its proteomics technologies to identify all members of the M10 family in the human proteome and characterize the structure and chemistry of active sites. De Novo will use its extended pharmacophore, QUASI II, technologies to identify site points on the protein, and run docking models and virtual screens of small molecules against the proteins. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Genetix Group plc, of New Milton, UK, and the Medical Research Council's Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Center in Cambridge, UK, entered a £2.5 million (US$3.9 million) collaboration to develop equipment and systems to quicken the process of identifying the role of proteins in human health and disease. The three-year project, to be funded by the British Department of Trade and Industry as well as both participants, is aimed at generating maps to reveal different protein interactions.
GlycoDesign Inc., of Toronto, announced an operating budget and organizational restructuring, including a "significant reduction" in headcount. Specific numbers were not disclosed. The changes will focus company resources, increase operational efficiencies and decrease the cash burn rate, the company said. GlycoDesign expects to decrease operating expenses to about $800,000 per month from about $1.5 million per month, giving the company operating resources until 2005. In May, the company stopped development of its renal cancer product, GD0039, and said it was refocusing. (See BioWorld Today, May 28, 2002.)
Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, reported at the American Society of Virology meeting in Lexington, Ky., results indicating that its investigational immune-regulating hormone, HE2200, increased survival in a mink model of experimental Aleutian disease virus (ADV). At the end of the 16-week study, all 15 treated animals survived, compared to one of 10 untreated animals. In a 13-week follow-up, 13 treated animals survived, while the remaining untreated animal did not. The study found a reduction in the treated group, relative to untreated, of virus-specific antibodies implicated in the glomerulonephritis characteristic of ADV. Also, findings showed significantly less weight loss in the treated animals. The drug was well tolerated.
Immusol Inc., of San Diego, and Chugai Pharma USA LLC, a subsidiary of Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, entered a drug target discovery and in vivo validation deal, making it the second collaboration between the companies in the past two years. The collaboration will focus on de novo discovery of targets in in vivo systems using Immusol's Inverse Genomics platform. Immusol would receive royalties on any products that arise out of the work. Further financial terms were not disclosed.
Mindset BioPharmaceuticals Inc., of Jerusalem, and New York University School of Medicine signed an agreement through which Mindset becomes the worldwide exclusive licensee of a vaccine technology for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The vaccine, Amyrex, being developed by Mindset in collaboration with scientists at the university, is based on a soluble, nontoxic and highly immunogenic, synthetic homologue of human Alzheimer's amyloid toxin.
Nanosphere Inc., of Northbrook, Ill., signed an agreement to form a development and distribution alliance with Takara Bio Inc., of Otsu, Japan. Takara will have exclusive distribution rights for certain Nanosphere products in Asia and nonexclusive rights in Europe. The alliance also includes the development of detection systems that combine Nanosphere's nanoparticle DNA probe technology with Takara's isothermal gene amplification technology. Takara also will make an equity investment in Nanosphere.
NEC Corp., of Tokyo, entered an agreement with Nippon Kayaku Co. Ltd., also of Tokyo, to develop an in silico drug discovery system that uses computer simulation to discover drugs based on the 3-dimensional structure of proteins to which they are targeted. The system is being developed jointly in a search for an anticancer drug. Nippon Kayaku will use the system for screening and validation. Financial terms were not disclosed.
OctoPlus Technologies BV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, and Diatos SA, of Paris, entered a collaboration aimed at developing a universal platform for targeted intracellular delivery of biological molecules. It brings together OctoPlus' biodegradable polymer technologies with Diatos' peptide vector technology. The parties will receive a total of 2.5 million (US$2.51 million) in grants from the Dutch and French governments over the course of the five-year collaboration.
Plexus Vaccine Inc., of San Diego, entered a technology development agreement with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, of Rixensart, Belgium, a unit of GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London, to explore structure-based rational vaccine design. Plexus will design chimeric miniproteins that identify and mimic the structural features of critical functional domains on target pathogenic proteins. Vaccine miniproteins will be designed to induce antibodies capable of highly selective binding to the target proteins, thus disrupting the pathogenic pathway. The parties will subsequently test the vaccine candidates in vivo and in vitro for therapeutic effect and safety, and share certain downstream product rights. Further financial details were not disclosed.
Seattle Genetics Inc., of Bothell, Wash., received an undisclosed license fee from Genencor International Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., under the terms of an alliance formed by the companies in January. The collaboration involves the joint discovery and development of a class of cancer therapeutics based on tumor-targeted enzymes that activate prodrugs. When the collaboration was formed, Genencor made an equity investment of $3 million in Seattle Genetics and agreed to pay specific fees and milestones. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 8, 2002.)
ViaCell Inc., of Boston, expanded research to assess and measure the effectiveness of both adult pancreatic islet-derived and umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment of diabetes. A recent study by a research team at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that glucagon-like peptide-1 can cause islet stem cells to differentiate into pancreatic beta cells, the insulin-secreting cells that are depleted or compromised in diabetes. The results of the study are published in the August 2002 issue of Endocrinology. ViaCell initiated preclinical research to validate methodologies for the isolation and ex vivo amplification of stem cells from adult sources such as pancreatic islets, umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, with potential applications for treating diabetes.
Zonagen Inc., of The Woodlands, Texas, was awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant totaling $836,441 to conduct a primate study of the activity of a compound for endometriosis. The product, Progenta, a selective progesterone receptor, was selected from a series of compounds developed by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Zonagen licensed worldwide rights to the technology from the NIH in 1999. The grant will allow for the study of Progenta against Lupron, a GnRH agonist.