Ark Therapeutics Ltd., of London, said EG009, its gene therapy product for the treatment of high-grade glioma, has been awarded orphan drug designation in the European Union. The product also has orphan drug status with the FDA. EG009 consists of two elements: the gene HSV-tk, which is injected into the brain after a tumor is removed, and the inactive prodrug ganciclovir administered five days later. The gene codes for the enzyme thymidine kinase that converts the prodrug to its active form to kill remaining tumor cells.

Biosearch Italia SpA, of Gerenzano, Italy, said its candidate antibiotic, BI-K0376, entered Phase I trials for the topical treatment of acne. The compound’s mode of action makes it highly selective against Propionibacterium acnes, the causative agent of acne, but does not harm the normal bacterial flora, the company said. Biosearch also has Ramoplanin in Phase III trials for the prevention of vancomycin-resistant enterococcal infections, and Dalbavancin recently entered Phase II trials for treatment of multidrug-resistant, Gram-positive infections.

Cerep SA, of Paris, announced a 10-fold jump in its net profit to EUR2.4 million (US$2.1 million) in 2001 from EUR240,000 the year before. Its consolidated turnover increased by 51.3 percent to EUR27.7 million from EUR18.3 million in 2000, with revenues from fee-for-service activities in particular up 83.5 percent at EUR20.3 million. Income from strategic collaborations amounted to EUR7.4 million, virtually the same as the year before (EUR7.2 million). Research and development spending increased by 10 percent to EUR11.4 million in 2001, while the company’s workforce expanded from 212 to 271 during the year. For 2002, Cerep is expecting its revenues to advance by a further 33 percent to EUR37 million.

Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, reached the first milestone in a contract agreement with the pharmaceutical company Byk Gulden Lomberg Chemische Fabrik GmbH, of Constance, Germany. Evotec expects to receive an undisclosed payment for the milestone by the end of March. The agreement signed in October covers an assay development program based on Evotec OAI’s novel detection platform for high-throughput imaging.

Genset SA, of Paris, announced the return of Marc Vasseur, the co-founder of the company and its chief biology officer until July 2000. He has been appointed to the post of senior vice president, with responsibility for the development of strategic projects in the area of central nervous system diseases, and will report directly to CEO André Pernet.

GPC Biotech AG, of Martinsried, Germany, was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,342,356, describing genetic approaches to elucidate molecular differences between normal and diseased cells that can be exploited for drug discovery. The technology covered by the patent uses libraries of short antisense fragments of RNA to inhibit the function of individual genes and selects for those genes whose inhibition in the diseased cells provide the desired therapeutic effect.

LION bioscience AG, of Heidelberg, Germany, and GeneProt Inc., of North Brunswick, N.J., entered a three-year strategic marketing collaboration aimed at intertwining their bioinformatics and industrial-scale proteomics capabilities. LION is buying approximately 680,000, or 1.75 percent, of GeneProt’s shares for $7.5 million. Gene Prot will purchase related services from LION for up to $4.9 million and plans to make its own data and offerings, together with the LION information platform, available to their joint customers at LION’s discretion, LION said. LION expects to enhance its information technology platform through GeneProt’s proteomics functionality. “Because the interest in proteomics for modern research is growing rapidly, this alliance will be of high interest and value for the life science industry,” LION CEO Friedrich von Bohlen said in a prepared statement.

MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, signed a two-year cooperation agreement with the University of Chicago on the influence of ionizing radiation exposure on tumor cell growth. MediGene plans to provide the University of Chicago with research funding. In return, MediGene has an option for exclusive worldwide licenses to new inventions resulting from the study.

MorphoSys AG, of Munich, Germany, said Centocor Inc., of Malvern, Pa., exercised an option to expand its existing agreement. Centocor increased its funded research at MorphoSys and also ordered AutoCAL, the MorphoSys-developed system for automated screening of antibodies. MorphoSys and Centocor signed a five-year agreement in December 2000 that focuses on the generation of human antibodies in therapeutic and genomics research applications. Centocor received an option for up to 30 therapeutic target molecules against which MorphoSys will make optimized fully human antibodies using HuCAL. MorphoSys also provided Centocor with its HuCAL antibody library to generate antibodies against various Centocor targets and expressed sequence tags in its functional genomics programs.

Phytopharm plc, of Cambridgeshire, UK, said it is starting a multicenter study of P7v in the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis, or mange. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 120 dogs will be conducted in France and the UK and aims to determine the optimum dose of the product. It builds on a previous study that reported positive results and will provide more data to back up licensing negotiations.

Viscum AG, of Zwingenberg, Germany, received a four-year EUR2.55 million (US$2.2 million) grant from the German Research Ministry for the development of cancer therapies based on fusion toxins. In fusion toxins, antibodies are fused with a cytotoxic compound, Viscum explained.