Acambis plc, of Cambridge, UK, announced positive results in the second Phase II trial of its vaccine against Japanese encephalitis, paving the way for Phase III trials to start next year and validating its ChimeriVax vaccine technology. The aim of the trial was to compare safety and immunogenicity of ChimeriVax-JE at a range of doses and to ascertain if a booster would be required for maximum immunity. The vaccine was well tolerated at all doses with 98 percent of subjects developing antibodies within one month. The seroconversion rate was similar at all dose levels and a single dose was as immunogenic as two doses. Acambis is scaling up production of the vaccine to start Phase III trials next year. In addition, further Phase II trials are planned for this year, including tests in children living in areas where Japanese encephalitis is endemic.
Amaxa GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, is establishing operations in the U.S., where it has half of its sales of Nucleofector, its proprietary device for nonviral gene transfer into primary cells. The company plans to establish facililities in Maryland and intends to employ 15 people there. Amaxa appointed David Kulick director of sales, North America. Kulick previously was responsible for U.S. East Coast sales at Affymetrix Inc.
Artus GmbH, of Hamburg, Germany, said it developed a novel system for RNA amplification called the Array-Amp Kit. It enables researchers to amplify mRNA without reducing the size of the amplification products. The underlying technology is based on linear amplification of the initial mRNA. It allows the precise determination of alterations in gene expression starting from a few hundred cells, as provided, for example, by tissue biopsies or laser microdissection. The company evaluated the kit in cooperation with Freiburg, Germany-based GeneScan Europe AG. GeneScan plans to distribute the product in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Australia and New Zealand.
Cerep SA, of Paris, reported a 51 percent jump in revenues to EUR27.7 million (US$24.2 million) last year from EUR18.3 million in 2000, and expects to post a net profit of EUR1.95 million for 2001, against a loss of EUR1.05 million the year before. Almost all the additional revenue was generated by fee-for-service activities, which soared 83.5 percent to EUR20.3 million and accounted for 73 percent of the total. Income from research collaborations, on the other hand, edged up only 2.3 percent to EUR7.4 million last year. The company expects its revenues to rise by at least one-third in 2002.
Gyros AB, of Uppsala, Sweden, which is developing CD-based microfluidics technology, said the Uppsala branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research is evaluating its first application, which is due for commercial release shortly. The application is designed to streamline protein sample preparation prior to analysis by MALDI mass spectrometry. It integrates and automates several preparation steps into a single process and, Gyros said, achieves sensitivity levels close to the detection limit of a MALDI mass spectrometer. Gyros was created through a spinout from Uppsala-based Amersham Biosciences AB in 2000.
H. Lundbeck A/S and BankInvest Biomedical Venture, both of Copenhagen, Denmark, said each has invested US$5 million in privately held biotechnology start-up Warren Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Yorktown, N.Y. Lundbeck also has licensed from Warren proprietary tissue protective technology, which has potential application to neurodegenerative disorders such as brain and spine injury and Alzheimer’s disease. Warren was established last year to develop technologies from The Kenneth S. Warren Institute.
NicOx SA, of Sophia Antipolis, France, reported positive results from a Phase I trial of NCX 1015, its nitric oxide-releasing derivative of the glucocorticoid Prednisolone, which is being developed for the treatment of chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders. At the same time, preclinical studies demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory activity in an animal model of arthritis and showed that NCX 1015 does not have the adverse side effects on bone tissue that traditional glucocorticoids tend to have.
Vernalis Group plc, of Winnersh, UK, announced an extension of its R&D agreement with Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, in obesity and said the two have agreed to a new collaboration in diabetes. No financial details were disclosed. The obesity collaboration is focused on using 5-HT2C receptor agonists to control the satiety mechanism, and the earlier work led to the selection of a clinical candidate. The diabetes program is at an early stage and is focused on drugs that influence glucose homeostasis.