Active Biotech AB, of Lund, Sweden, signed an exclusive agreement with Avidex Ltd., of Abingdon, UK, covering Active’s small-molecule CD80 antagonists. Avidex gains exclusive rights to evaluate further the CD80 antagonists and to develop and market products incorporating them or their derivatives. Active Biotech will receive an up-front payment and milestone payments of up to approximately $8.3 million, as well as royalties on future sales of developed products.

Argenta Discovery Ltd., of Harlow, UK, identified two potential lead candidate series during a six-month project with Aventis Pharma AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, the global pharmaceutical business of Aventis SA. Argenta optimized the necessary primary and secondary functional assays, predicted the binding of the leads to the protein’s 3-dimensional structure using computer-aided drug design techniques, and synthesized more than 150 compounds. Aventis will develop further the two lead series into candidates for the treatment of central nervous system disorders.

Axonyx Inc., of New York, reported that Phenserine, a third-generation acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, has the ability to reduce both amyloid precursor protein and amyloid peptide (amyloid-beta) formation in the brain. At the seventh International Geneva/Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer Therapy in Geneva, clinicians said phenserine reduces the synthesis of APP to a level that retains its physiological function but reduces the amyloid-beta derived from it. Reducing amyloid-beta formation and its resulting deposition could favorably modify Alzheimer’s disease progression.

British Biotech plc, of Oxford, UK, said the European Commission designated its antileukemic drug, E21R, as an orphan medicinal product for the indication of juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia. E21R is being developed by British Biotech in collaboration with BresaGen Ltd., of Adelaide, Australia. The drug is in a Phase II trial in the UK in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and a Phase II trial in Australia in adult patients suffering from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.

Cellomics Inc., of Pittsburgh, released version 2.0 of CellSpace Knowledge Miner, a bioinformatics tool and content database that allows users to investigate the relationships between molecules as well as between molecules and diseases. Cellomics focuses on the field of cellular knowledge extraction.

Centocor Inc., of Malvern, Pa., and its product, Remicade, were the subject of a study published in the April 6, 2002, issue of The Lancet. The study found that more than 80 percent of ankylosing spondylitis patients treated with Remicade (infliximab) experienced clinical improvement, and more than 50 percent had their disease activity reduced by more than half. The study was coordinated in Berlin, but the 70 patients participated at eight clinics in a system of rheumatological institutions across Germany.

Elitra Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, said it received a three-year C$5.74 million (US$3.5 million) grant from Genome Canada and Genome Quebec related to its functional genomics efforts in Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus. Elitra will use the funds to complete its efforts in applying its technology on a genome-wide basis in C. albicans, representing the first time a comprehensive gene disruption project has been completed in a pathogenic organism. Elitra focuses on antimicrobial functional genomics.

Enzo Biochem Inc., of New York, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed, by a split 2-to-1 decision, a lower-court ruling, affirmed by a 2-to-1 vote, the summary judgment that Enzo’s U.S. Patent No. 4,900,659 is invalid for lack of written description of the claimed invention. The patent is directed to nucleic acid probes for the detection of the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. Enzo said the decision will have no financial impact on the company, which has a European patent covering the same product that has been upheld on challenge. Enzo said it would seek a rehearing before the full Court of Appeals.

ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Costa Mesa, Calif., further extended until noon EST on April 16 the expiration time for its tender offer for all of its outstanding 8.75 percent Series B senior notes due 2008. ICN previously extended the expiration time for its debt tender offer on March 19. ICN also said that as of April 2, it successfully received tenders and consents from holders of approximately $195 million principal amount of ICN’s 8.75 percent notes, representing 100 percent of the outstanding principal amount of those notes.

Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., said its Ibis Therapeutics division successfully transitioned its government-sponsored research program to discover novel antibacterial drugs for biological warfare defense to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The move triggered a three-year, $2.4 million contract to advance the division’s work in developing therapeutic countermeasures to biological warfare. This contract builds on Ibis’ earlier research programs with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

MDS Sciex, a division of MDS Inc., of Toronto, a developer and exporter of mass spectrometry technology, was awarded a C$17.5 million (US$11 million) collaborative research project, half of which will be funded by Genome Canada. MDS Sciex’s large-scale research project will develop tools to increase the capabilities of scientists in the field of genomics.

Medicure Inc., of Winnipeg, Manitoba, began patient enrollment for its multicenter Phase II trial to evaluate the cardioprotective effect of MC-1 against potential damage caused by ischemia and ischemic reperfusion frequently experienced by high-risk heart disease patients undergoing angioplasty. The placebo-controlled, single-blind feasibility study will enroll up to 100 high-risk patients scheduled for elective percutaneous coronary intervention by angioplasty at sites in the U.S. and Canada. The primary endpoint is infarct size during the procedure as determined by the release of the cardiac enzyme CK-MB during 24 hours following angioplasty.

NeoGene Therapeutics Inc., of Irvine, Calif., said its subsidiary, NeoGene Technologies, had an article highlighting the role of Urotensin II receptor in motor control published in the journal Brain Research. Research identified a new use and the potential for drug development from a previously identified G protein-coupled receptor. A patent has been filed for the new use, the company said.

NeoPharm Inc., of Lake Forest, Ill., said research will be presented on LErafAON, its investigational liposome antisense agent that uses NeoPharm’s NeoLipid liposomal drug delivery system, this week at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Francisco. The agent uses NeoLipid technology to encapsulate c-raf antisense oligonucleotide and facilitate intracellular delivery of the antisense to inhibit the production of Raf-1 protein in tumors.

Neose Technologies Inc., of Horsham, Pa., appointed Boyd Clarke president, CEO and director. Clarke served most recently as chairman and CEO of Aviron Inc., of Mountain View, Calif. Neose develops technologies for the synthesis and manufacture of complex carbohydrates.

Neurochem Inc., of Saint-Laurent, Quebec, reported results from three Phase I studies involving 86 patients administered Alzhemed, its drug candidate to treat Alzheimer’s disease, at the seventh International Geneva/Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer Therapy in Geneva. The data confirmed that the drug candidate is orally bioavailable with a good safety and pharmacokinetic profile in healthy young adults and elderly subjects. Neurochem plans to submit an application to regulatory authorities during the second quarter to advance Alzhemed to a Phase II trial.

Novuspharma SpA, of Bresso, Italy, began its Phase III program for the treatment of indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) with BBR 2778, its lead compound. The study, which will involve about 800 patients at 100 centers in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, will compare the current standard treatment rituximab as a single agent against a BBR 2778/rituximab combination, as well as assess complete response rates and time-to-disease progression. A pivotal trial of similar size and scope of BBR 2778 in aggressive NHL is scheduled to start in the second half of this year.

OncoGenex Technologies Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, named James Shepard chairman of its board. Shepard served as CEO of Finning International Inc. from 1991 until 2000. OncoGenex focuses on therapeutics for cancer.

Prana Biotechnology Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, reported successful results of a clinical trial using PBT-1 (Iodochlorhydroxyquin) in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The data were reported at the seventh International Geneva/Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer Therapy in Geneva. The study found the Alzheimer’s disease amyloid protein, the target of the drug’s activity, was significantly reduced in the blood of patients in the treatment group vs. an increase in the placebo group. Results also showed the disease’s progression was slowed in the more severely affected patients in the treatment group compared to the placebo group.

Prescient NeuroPharma Inc., of Toronto, moved its PRE703 compound to project status as a result of several additional anxiety model experiments. The company said PRE703 addresses anxiety through a new mode of action, the mGlu receptor pathway, and that PRE703 shows no motor dysfunction at a higher dose than Valium. It shows a significant effect in decreasing fear-induced freezing in animal models. Prescient plans to complete the preclinical development of PRE703 and file an IND by the end of the year.

RiboTargets Ltd., of Cambridge, UK, received an exclusive worldwide license to patents filed by the Medical Research Council relating to the 30S subunit of the bacterial ribosome 30S. RiboTargets will use Ribodock, its structure-based drug discovery engine, for research of several protein and nucleic acid ribosomal components that will be targets for antibacterial drugs. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Scil Biomedicals GmbH, of Martinsried, Germany, completed patient enrollment in a Phase Ib trial with Smart Anti-L-selectin antibody in 21 psoriasis patients. Scil expects preliminary results from the multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multiple-dose trial in June. The trial is expected to improve the patients’ condition by preventing the migration of leukocytes into the skin and reducing the release of mediators.

Sonus Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Bothell, Wash., began Phase II studies with Tocosol Paclitaxel, its lead cancer therapy product. The studies are designed to evaluate efficacy in specific tumor types and to build on tumor-response activity seen in Phase I trials. The development program will begin with four studies to evaluate Tocosol Paclitaxel in ovarian, non-small-cell lung, bladder and colorectal cancers.

Virocell Inc., of Saint-Foy, Quebec, said the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada granted permission for Virocell to begin Phase I trials for its lead compound, BG-777, an immunomodulator. BG-777 will be developed initially for the treatment of HIV infections, as well as for CMV infections in bone marrow transplant recipients. Phase II trials are scheduled to begin before year’s end.

Viventia Biotech Inc., of Toronto, received a nonexclusive license from XOMA Ltd., of Cambridge, Mass., for a bacterial cell-expression technology. Viventia said the XOMA expression system will help implement a high-yield induction manufacturing process at Viventia, thereby decreasing costs and improving yields associated with the manufacture of its antibody product candidates.

Vivus Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., said it began treating patients in a clinical study designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of TA-1790 in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. TA-1790 is an oral phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor. The study will be a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of TA-1790 using RigiScan assessments of erectile response. Vivus is engaged in the development of therapies for the treatment of quality-of-life disorders in men and women, with a focus on sexual dysfunction.