Ark Therapeutics Ltd., of London, said it developed a novel delivery system, Scavidin, for targeting chemotherapeutic agents and radioactive isotopes directly into tumors. When the Scavidin construct is inserted into a cell it expresses a transmembrane receptor that migrates to the surface of the cell, and binds specifically to biotin, a naturally occurring compound, which it takes into the cell. In a model of brain cancer, Ark showed that therapeutic agents linked to biotin are delivered to cells into which Scavidin has been introduced. The company said it will now focus on delivering widely used chemotherapeutics with Scavidin.

Biovitrum AB, of Stockholm, Sweden, said it moved its candidate treatment for Type II diabetes, BVT.3498, into Phase I clinical trials. BVT.3498 is a selective inhibitor of 11ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11ß HSD-1), one of two enzymes believed to play a major role in the interconversion of glucocorticoid steroid hormones between active and inactive forms. Excess levels of glucocorticoids are implicated in obesity and diabetes. Transgenic animals with increased 11ß HSD-1 activity have an excess of visceral fat and are insulin resistant, diabetic and dyslipidemic, Biovitrum said, citing a recent rodent study published in Science. In addition, non-selective inhibition of 11ß HSD-1 in humans previously has been shown to result in enhanced insulin sensitivity, the company said.

MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,352,696 titled “Papillomavirus truncated L1 protein and fusion protein constructs.” The patent is related to vaccines for the treatment of tumors induced by human papillomavirus infections. The patent protects specific DNA constructs used to produce the vaccine particles as well as the manufacturing process, MediGene said. MediGene is developing a vaccine for the treatment of cervical cancer and its precursors, which is currently undergoing Phase I/II clinical trials.

OctoPlus NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, raised EUR5.7 million (US$5 million) in its first financing round, enabling it to advance lead products based on its polymer drug delivery technology into clinical trials later in 2002. The company said its polymer technology allows the controlled release of protein drugs, over days or weeks, following a single injection. OctoPlus has also been granted a soft loan of EUR2.7 million by the Dutch government for the further development of its platform technology.

Oxford GlycoSciences plc, of Abingdon, UK, is looking for a new CEO following the announcement that the current head, Michael Kranda, is leaving the company for personal reasons. Kranda, who has held the post for six years, will stay until the end of the year to ease the transition.

PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc, of Oxford, UK, said it has submitted a European marketing authorization application for its cholera and travelers’ diarrhea vaccine, Dukoral. This is a drinkable vaccine that protects against Virio cholerae and enterotoxigenic E. coli.

Protherics plc, of Macclesfield, UK, launched its second product in the U.S., DigiFab, for the treatment of digoxin toxicity. The product, which consists of specific antibody fragments that bind to and neutralize digoxin molecules, will be marketed by Savage Laboratories, a division of Altana Inc. Digoxin, a heart drug, has a narrow therapeutic margin, and toxicity can occur when the drug builds up in elderly patients who have a reduced ability to metabolize it. Last year the company launched CroFab for the treatment of rattlesnake bites, which is based on the same antibody production technology.

Provalis plc, of Deeside, Wales, plans to raise £10 million to fund the development and launch of diabetes diagnosis products based on its Glycosal technology. Half the money will come from a 1-for-5 rights offer and the rest from an institutional placing. The rights offer is priced at 11.25 pence, a 12 percent discount to the closing price on March 6. The placing and open offer are underwritten by Rothschild and Beeson Gregory. Glycosal is a doctors’ office test for measuring hemoglobin A1c, the glycated form of hemoglobin that reflects the average blood glucose concentration over the previous 90 to 120 days. This makes it possible to closely monitor and control blood sugar levels, thus slowing the progression of the disease. Provalis also intends to use some of the money raised to develop a version of the Glycosal test for home use.

Scienion AG, of Berlin, and Conaris Research Institute GmbH, of Kiel, Germany, plan to jointly develop DNA and protein chips for the investigation of inflammatory diseases. The German Research Ministry granted EUR2.5 million to fuel the project.

The Singapore Economic Development Board said its Biomedical Sciences Investment Fund will open an office in London next month to look for investment opportunities in Western Europe, with the aim of establishing links between European companies and Singapore. Representatives of Singapore’s biotechnology industry were in London last week to demonstrate the government’s commitment to the sector and promote partnerships between the Singaporean and European biomedical communities.