Alizyme plc, of Cambridge, UK, said the Phase Ib clinical trial of ATL-104 in the treatment of mucositis, using healthy volunteers, showed repeat dosing with the compound was safe and well tolerated. The company is now seeking approval for a Phase IIa trial involving repeat doses in cancer patients, to start in the second half of 2002. ATL-104 is a plant protein that stimulates growth of the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract. Those cells can be damaged during radio- and chemotherapy for cancer, limiting dosage and impairing quality of life.
BioFocus plc of Sittingbourne, UK, signed an agreement with Japan-based Daiichi Pharmaceutical to undertake computational and synthetic chemistry of lead compounds identified by Daiichi. It is BioFocus' fifth partnership with a Japanese pharmaceutical company.
BioProjects International plc, of London, a biotechnology investment specialist, joined the Alternative Investment Market, London's junior market, with a placing of 75 million shares at 6 pence per share, raising £4.5 million (US$6.6 million). BioProjects was set up in April 2000 to specialize in investing in early stage biotechnology companies. Before the listing it had raised £5.1 million.
Biotie Therapies Oyj, of Turku, Finland, said the Finnish National Technology Agency (Tekes) provided EUR3.6 million (US$3.4 million) in funding to support its drug development projects. The cash, which covers the period from October 2001 to December 2002, comprises an R&D grant of EUR700,000 and soft loans totaling EUR2.9 million. The funding involves Biotie's second-generation, humanized anti-VAP-1 antibody anti-inflammatory drug candidate Huvap; its synthetic form of the thrombosis drug heparin; and its integrin alfa2beta1 inhibitor program for cancer and thrombosis. Earlier this year, Biotie unveiled plans to merge with two other Finnish Firms, Oy Contral Pharma Ltd. and its subsidiary, Carbion Inc., both of Espoo.
Celltech plc, of Slough, UK, reported that in a pilot study involving 92 patients with active Crohn's disease, 47 percent of patients treated with a single infusion of CDP 870 achieved remission, compared with 20 percent in the placebo group. CDP 870 also demonstrated activity as measured by biochemical markers of chronic inflammation. Separately, Celltech said it is looking for a new CEO to follow Peter Fellner, who is to become chairman as soon as his replacement is found.
Cyclacel Ltd., of Dundee, UK, said it is expanding the focus of its cell cycle technology beyond the current interest in cancer. It started a trial of its lead drug CYC202 in glomerulonephritis, a group of inflammatory diseases of the kidney. CYC202, an orally available small-molecule inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase, is in a Phase Ib trial in cancer. As in cancer, certain kidney diseases are characterized by abnormal cell proliferation.
Immuno-Designed Molecules SA, of Paris; its Canadian subsidiary, IDM-Biotech Limitée, of Montreal; and McGill University inaugurated a cell preparation center at the Center for Experimental Cancer Therapies, part of the H pital Général Juif, the McGill University hospital in Montreal. IDM provided most of the funding for the center and is supplying the technology required for the cancer therapies it will produce. The cell preparation center will apply IDM's immunotherapeutic approach to the treatment of cancer patients at the hospital. The therapy entails educating the individual patient's immune system to attack and destroy the cancer. Cells extracted from a patient's immune system will be modified in the center in such a way that, when they are reinjected into the patient, the "stimulated" immune cells will recognize tumor cells and destroy them. IDM's cell preparation centers effectively transform patients' cells into what the company calls "cell drugs." The company has four such cell drugs for cancer in clinical development.
Meridian Bioscience Inc., of Cincinnati, said it signed a letter of intent to acquire the outstanding stock of Biotrin Holdings plc, of Dublin, Ireland. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close early next month, were not disclosed, although it involves both cash and provisions for future earnouts. Biotrin, which raised EUR16.9 million in three financing rounds, has developed a diagnostic test for parvovirus, a viral pathogen that can cause complications in pregnancy and in transplant recipients. Its annual revenues are about US$7 million. The company, which was formed in 1992, is also applying longstanding expertise in organ biomarkers to the area of predictive toxicology - the use of specific cells from key organs to gauge the toxic effects of new compounds in development.
Modus Biological Membranes Ltd., of Rehovot, Israel, is planning a $15 million financing round this year, according to Tel Aviv-based Alon Technology Venture Fund CEO Dan Gilat. Modus Biological develops products and drugs that eliminate withdrawal symptoms from smoking, alcohol or narcotics addictions, and also that relieve or prevent hot flashes in menopause. The natural bioengineered materials appear to have no side effects. A financing round in 2001 raised $2 million.
Synaptica Ltd., of Oxford, UK, signed a collaborative research agreement with Sanochemia Pharmazeutika AG, of Vienna, Austria, to jointly evaluate Sanochemia's neuroprotective galantamine derivatives. Synaptica will use its assays to screen Sanochemia's library for compounds that modulate neurotransmitter release by acting on nicotinic receptors. In parallel, the UK company will have access to screen the library against its own proprietary targets. Financial details were not disclosed.
Vernalis plc, of Winnersh, UK, said Phase I trials of VR1065 have started in the treatment of obesity, triggering a milestone payment from partner F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland. VR1065 is a 5HT2C receptor agonist that targets the satiety mechanism. At the same time Vernalis said it has started a Phase II trial of VML670 in the treatment of sexual dysfunction caused as a side effect of taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants. The trial will involve about 240 patients. Eli Lilly and Co. has the option to license the compound at the end of the trial, paying all subsequent development costs.