Agencourt Bioscience Corp., of Beverly, Mass., said it will provide the Duke University Medical Center department of anesthesiology with large-scale assay development and single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping services. Agencourt will use its high-throughput genomics services pipeline and the Sequenom Inc. MassArray mass spectrometry genotyping platform to develop pharmacogenomic markers based on patient DNA samples.

ApoImmune Inc., of Louisville, Ky., partnered with Jewish Hospital in Louisville to research a new cancer treatment. The study will test a treatment developed by ApoImmune that alters cancer cells so they can be recognized and attacked by the body's immune system. Therapeutic proteins used in the treatment will be produced in tobacco plants.

Array BioPharma Inc., of Boulder, Colo., said it will be added to the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, effective May 20. Array BioPharma focuses on creating small-molecule drugs through the integration of chemistry, biology and informatics.

Avecia Biotechnology, of Grangemouth, Scotland, completed a $5 million expansion of its DNA medicines production facility in Milford, Mass. The expanded facility includes an OligoProcess synthesizer, together with purification, downstream processing and analytical equipment. The DNA production capability mirrors the specifications of its twin facility in Grangemouth. Avecia focuses on a range of technologies for producing DNA medicines, biologics and peptide therapeutics.

Barrier Therapeutics Inc., of Princeton, N.J., raised $46 million to create an independent biopharmaceutical company based on technology and products licensed from Janssen Pharmaceutica Products LP, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc., and Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., all affiliates of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J. J.P. Morgan Partners and TL Ventures served as lead investors, with Perseus-Soros BioPharmaceutical Fund, Baker/Tisch Investment Partners and KBC also participating. Barrier will use the funds to complete clinical development of its three lead products and to develop six others in its pipeline. Its three late-stage development candidates address fungal infections, diaper dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis. Its earlier-stage clinical programs are in psoriasis, acne, skin inflammation, allergies and wound healing.

Biosearch Italia SpA, of Milan, Italy, said it reacquired North American development and commercialization rights to Ramoplanin for topical applications from IntraBiotics Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Mountain View, Calif. Based on their May 2001 deal, Biosearch reacquired all rights to oral applications of the drug in North America, while IntraBiotics retained rights to topical applications. IntraBiotics would have continued to retain rights if it commenced clinical development of the drug for topical use by March 2002. However, IntraBiotics is focusing its efforts on its lead product, iseganan, and thus, Biosearch reacquired all rights at no cost, now holding worldwide rights for topical use. Oral Ramoplanin is being developed by Genome Therapeutics Corp., of Waltham, Mass., Biosearch's North American licensing partner, in a Phase III study for the prevention of bloodstream infections caused by vancomycin-resistant enterococci. (See BioWorld Today, June 1, 2001, and Oct. 10, 2001.)

Centagenetix Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., appointed Doros Platika CEO. Platika previously served as CEO and chairman of Curis Inc., also of Cambridge. Centagenetix was founded in May 2001 to decipher the genetic basis of longevity through the study of centenarians, or people 100 years of age or more.

Echelon Research Laboratories Inc., of Salt Lake City, changed its name to Echelon Biosciences Inc., reflecting its expanded corporate vision and its focus on high-throughput assay development for drug screening, drug discovery and a commitment to therapeutic research in cancer and diabetes, the company said. Also, it hired Tim Miller as its president. Previously, Miller served as executive vice president and general manager of the inflammation business at Iomed Inc., also of Salt Lake City.

Cepheid Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., said it is part of a team selected by the U.S. Postal Service for a pilot program with initial funding of $3.7 million to evaluate the use of DNA-based bio-threat detection technology to protect against biological hazards, including anthrax. Based upon results of the program, the USPS plans to award a multimillion-dollar contract by the end of September to install DNA detection systems in all of its nearly 300 automatic mail-sorting facilities nationwide. If successful, the integrated systems would be sold through Northrop Grumman Corp., of Los Angeles, while Cepheid would produce and supply the DNA tests for use on the systems. Cepheid's stock (NASDAQ:CPHD) rose 49 cents Monday, or 12.2 percent, to close at $4.52.

ConjuChem Inc., of Montreal, said preliminary results from a repeat-dose clinical trial of DAC:Opioid (CJC-1008) did not reveal any detection of clinical or biological signs of an immunogenic response in patients who received a repeat dose of the compound. Twelve healthy volunteers who originally had received a single intravenous dose of DAC:Opioid as part of a Phase I trial, concluded in October, consented to receive another dose. To date, no adverse clinical response related to immunogenicity has been observed, and no antibody immune response or neutralizing antibody response to DAC:Opioid has been detected. Separately, the company said it completed patient enrolment in a Phase I trial of DAC:TI (thrombin inhibitor), a local-acting anticoagulation compound. Preliminary results demonstrated good safety and tolerability for DAC:TI up to the 200-mg dose level, the company said.

ESBATech AG, of Zurich, Switzerland, closed a second round of financing, raising US$6.6 million. The financing was led by the Immunology Fund of Lombard Odier & Cie, of Geneva. Also investing in the round were Novartis Venture Fund, the sole investor in ESBATech's first round; HBM BioVentures; BSI New Biomedical Frontiers; and Peter Ohnemus. ESBATech's research entails the identification of disease genes and functional screenings for lead compounds in cell-based assays.

ExonHit Therapeutics SA, of Paris, and Roche Applied Science, of Penzburg, Germany, signed a research contract to develop tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy in living animals. By combining Roche's PCR-workflow platform and DATAS, ExonHit's qualitative gene profiling technology, the companies will work to identify RNA signatures in bovine blood that correlate to BSE infection. They intend to develop a BSE test within 12 months. The test would be made available initially for research and evaluation purposes on Roche's PCR-workflow platform.

Generex Biotechnology Corp., of Toronto, completed a proof-of-concept study of low-molecular-weight heparin, delivered using Generex's platform technology. The study indicated that the efficacy of low-molecular-weight heparin delivered via the buccal cavity is equivalent to that of injection. Ten volunteers were treated in the study.

Genmab A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, and ACE BioSciences A/S, of Odense, Denmark, formed a collaboration to develop antibody products to treat infectious disease. ACE will provide disease targets and Genmab will use its fully human antibody technology to create and develop products. The alliance covers four targets in the infectious disease area. The companies will collaborate on the research, development and commercialization of the products and will equally share development costs and revenues.

GPC Biotech AG, of Munich, Germany, said the European Commission granted orphan medicinal product designation for its Phase II compound, Bryostatin-1, for the treatment of esophageal cancer. The designation gives GPC exclusive marketing rights for the esophageal cancer indication in Europe for 10 years, although it is subject to revision after six years, following marketing approval in Europe. In December, the FDA granted orphan drug status in the U.S. for Bryostatin-1 in combination with Taxol for the treatment of esophageal cancer.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, of New York, said its president, Harold Varmus, was named a recipient of a 2001 National Medal of Science. The honor recognizes Varmus' service as director of the National Institutes of Health, of Bethesda, Md., from 1993 to 1999.

Kudos Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, said it has a worldwide license from BTG to develop, manufacture and market AQ4N, a hypoxic cell cytotoxin for use as a cancer therapy. AQ4N is a water-soluble prodrug. Kudos is planning the development of AQ4N in combination with both ionizing radiation and major chemotherapy. AQ4N has been shown in in vitro and in vivo preclinical experiments to have potential against cancer when administered in conjunction with either radiation or chemotherapy. The product is in Phase I evaluation in the UK. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Maxygen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., said it was recently issued 16 U.S. patents and granted two European patents. The advances to its platform include new methods for cell-based, exonuclease-mediated, single-stranded, template-mediated, and ligase-mediated recombination, and the use of targeted or random mutagenesis in conjunction with gene reassembly, and FACS-based and other screening tools for use to screen diverse variants. The new methods increase the breadth of Maxygen's MolecularBreeding discovery processes, the company said.

Mixture Sciences Inc., of San Diego, said the Neuroimmunology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the NIH, of Bethesda, Md., renewed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement that began in 1998. The goal of the CRADA is to develop a way to identify the antigen specificity of T-cell clones derived from joint fluid in chronic Lyme arthritis, peripheral blood or cerebrospinal fluid lymphocytes from multiple sclerosis patients, but also from other inflammatory disease conditions. The project uses combinatorial peptide libraries in the positional scanning format in conjunction with bioinformatics to identify antigen specifics. Financial terms were not disclosed.

SignalGene Inc., of Montreal, said it would redeploy the financial and organizational resources used in its population genetics operations into the company's core drug discovery and development programs. The company will explore selling or licensing the commercial rights to any products ultimately resulting from the program. Notwithstanding proceeds generated from such a sale, the company will incur a one-time charge of about C$3.7 million (US$2.4 million), of which C$400,000 will have an impact on the company's cash flow. The company expects annual savings of about C$1.5 million as a result of the measure.

SkyePharma plc, of London, agreed to transfer all European Solaraze rights to Shire Pharmaceuticals Group plc, of Andover, UK, for up to £15 million (US$21.9 million). SkyePharma will receive royalties on all European sales. Of the £15 million, £2.1 million is contingent on certain conditions, including a Solaraze launch in certain European countries. Solaraze is a topical therapy for actinic keratosis, a precancerous skin condition that may result from excessive sun exposure.

Telik Inc., of South San Francisco, said it has been selected for addition to the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index. Telik will be included in the index on May 20. The company focuses on small-molecule drugs to treat cancer and other diseases.

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