Agrinomics LLC, of South San Francisco, characterized and catalogued more than 250,000 lines of the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, identifying nearly its entire genome in less than 18 months and exceeding a key second-year milestone. The collection of transgenic Arabidopsis allows Agrinomics to rapidly identify genes that play important roles in crop improvement and thus enhance plant breeding. Agrinomics is a 50-50 research joint venture between Exelixis Plant Sciences, of Portland, Ore., and Aventis CropScience, of Lyon, France.
Altachem Pharma Ltd., of Edmonton, Alberta, is in negotiations with respect to a non-brokered private placement of up to 9 million units at a minimum price of C$1.10 per unit, each unit consisting of one common share and one warrant, for an aggregate consideration of C$9.9 million (US$6.2 million). Each unit will have a 12-month hold period. Each warrant entitles the holder to purchase one common share at a price of C$1.55, if the warrant is exercised within 12 months from the date of closing of this offer, and C$1.80 if the warrant is exercised after 12 months but before 18 months from the date of closing of this offer. The company is developing cancer and HIV drugs.
Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, signed a research and development agreement with Shanghai New Asiatic Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Shanghai, and a division of Shanghai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., the largest state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate in the People’s Republic of China, to market Avanir’s docosanol 10 percent cream in China for the treatment of cold sores and other topical viral indications. Shanghai will conduct and finance product development necessary for regulatory approvals for all indications.
Cel-Sci Corp., of Vienna, Va., extended the warrant expiration date for its publicly traded Series A warrants from Feb. 6, 2002, to Feb. 6, 2003. Each warrant allows the holder to purchase one share of common stock for $3. A total of 116,405 warrants are outstanding. Cel-Sci develops immune system-based treatments for cancer and infectious diseases.
Charles River Laboratories International Inc., of Wilmington, Mass., said it intends to privately offer $150 million in senior convertible debentures due in 2022 and convertible into shares of Charles River common stock. Charles River has granted initial purchasers an option to purchase up to an additional $25 million principal amount of debentures, exercisable within 13 days of the initial offering. The company said it intends to use proceeds to retire its $79.7 million aggregate principal amount of 13.5 percent senior subordinated notes due 2009, through a tender offer and consent solicitation, and for general corporate purposes.
Compugen Ltd., of Tel Aviv, Israel, and diaDexus Inc., of South San Francisco, entered an agreement to accelerate diaDexus’ ability to identify and validate diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets based on Compugen’s computational biology analysis of genomic and proteomic databases. DiaDexus will use Compugen’s LEADS computational biology platform and related tools to perform analysis of both proprietary and public genomic and proteomic databases. DiaDexus will use the results to develop human diagnostic and therapeutic products. In return, Compugen will receive undisclosed cash payments and a warrant to purchase equity in diaDexus.
Cytomyx plc, of Cambridge, UK, entered a collaboration with Papworth Hospital NHS Trust to discover and validate new targets associated with cardiovascular disease. The initial focus will be dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Papworth will provide samples of diseased heart tissue. Cytomyx will use its proteomics technology platform for analysis to identify protein targets associated with the disease. Cytomyx will file patents on any targets arising from the collaboration, and will own all intellectual property. Papworth will receive royalties on products generated through the collaboration, which will be invested in NHS-based research for the benefit of patients.
Genaera Corp., of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., began a clinical trial of squalamine, its anti-angiogenic agent, in fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The study will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Squalamine is an anti-angiogenic molecule with a multifaceted mechanism of action that blocks the action of a number of angiogenic growth factors, including vascular endothelial growth factor.
Generex Biotechnology Corp., of Toronto, successfully completed a proof-of-concept Phase I study of morphine delivery using its RapidMist technology. The randomized, crossover study treated 16 healthy volunteers with an intramuscular 5-mg morphine injection, the equivalent buccal dose of aerosolized oral morphine puffs and 10-mg immediate-release morphine tablets, buccal morphine delivered by RapidMist. The technology demonstrated comparable onset of action to intramuscular injection and significantly faster onset of action when compared to immediate-release oral morphine tablets.
Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., and ImaRx Therapeutics Inc., of Tucson, Ariz., agreed to evaluate the expression of Genzyme’s nonviral gene therapy vectors in specific target tissues when combined with ImaRx’s Aerosomes and Fluorogene microbubbles and Sonoporation. ImaRx said the microbubble and ultrasound delivery systems help overcome some of the low-expression problems associated with nonviral systems and may make them more viable for gene therapy. Financial terms were not disclosed.
GW Pharmaceuticals plc, of Salisbury, UK, expanded its Phase III program into cancer pain. The trial will examine the effectiveness of a cannabis-based medicine in treating pain associated with cancer. More than 100 patients with terminal cancer who are experiencing pain and not responding to current therapy will be involved in the double-blind, placebo-controlled study to take place at more than 20 centers in the UK. The cannabis-based medicine will be administered by a sublingual spray. GW is developing a portfolio of nonsmoked cannabis-based products and its program also includes a Phase III trial in multiple sclerosis patients.
Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., completed enrollment of 600 patients in a late-phase trial of LY900003 (ISIS 3521) in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. The investigational cancer compound, which belongs to Isis, is being developed through an alliance with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis. The U.S. and European Phase III trial is designed to evaluate the ability of LY900003 to prolong patients’ lives in combination with the chemotherapy agents carboplatin and paclitaxel. Isis initiated the study in non-small-cell lung cancer in October 2000. In August 2001, Isis entered the deal with Lilly.
Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., obtained an exclusive worldwide license to a novel technology known as small, integrated building blocks, for the conversion of peptides and other existing drugs into small molecules that have the potential for oral delivery. The technology uses modular building blocks in order to mimic a targeted peptide or rigid small molecule. This license was obtained from the Yissum Research and Development Co., the commercial arm of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Terms were not released.
MedImmune Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., said it completed its acquisition of Aviron Inc., of Mountain View, Calif. MedImmune acquired over 90 percent of the Aviron shares in an exchange offer which closed Jan. 9. A MedImmune subsidiary merged into Aviron, making Aviron a wholly owned subsidiary of MedImmune. In the merger, each remaining Aviron share was converted into the right to receive 1.075 MedImmune shares, the same exchange ratio as in the offer. The deal initially was valued at $1.5 billion. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 4, 2001.)
MGI Pharma Inc., of Minneapolis, and Helsinn Healthcare SA, of Lugano, Switzerland, reported that patient treatment is completed and data analysis is under way for the pivotal Phase III trials of their investigational agent, palonosetron. Trials involved more than 130 medical centers across North America and Europe, with more than 1,800 cancer patients receiving either highly or moderately emetogenic chemotherapy. Palonosetron is a potent, highly selective 5-HT3-receptor antagonist in development in North America and Europe for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Submission of the new drug application is planned for the third quarter of this year.
MitoKor Inc., of San Diego, signed a scientific research collaboration agreement with the Buck Institute for Age Research, of Novato, Calif., and a technology transfer and option agreement with the University of Oregon at Eugene. Through the agreements, MitoKor is working to decipher the human mitochondrial proteome. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a major contributing factor in the pathophysiology of major diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and Type II diabetes. Terms were not released.
Modex Therapeutics Ltd., of Lausanne, Switzerland, submitted a preinvestigational new drug package to the FDA for its oxygen species scavenger product (Oxyscav) to start a clinical trial in the United States for the prevention and treatment of radiation-induced skin damage. Modex said, if approved, the company intends to initiate a Phase I/II trial in the U.S. in the third quarter. Modex is developing therapeutic products for the treatment of skin wounds and diseases.
NeoPharm Inc., of Lake Forest, Ill., said it met with senior officials of Pharmacia Monday, regarding the cancer drug LEP (Liposomal Encapsulated Paclitaxel) development program. Pharmacia has all responsibility for development for LEP through a licensing agreement with NeoPharm. NeoPharm said Pharmacia stated it “remains fully committed to the development of LEP,” and also is interested in exploring the possibility of licensing other NeoPharm products. Because Pharmacia controls the LEP program, NeoPharm said it could not comment on its development timetable. NeoPharm’s stock has fallen recently over speculation concerning the timeline for the initiation of Phase III LEP trials. Its stock (NASDAQ:NEOL) fell 5 cents Wednesday to close at $18.
Sangamo BioSciences Inc., of Richmond, Calif., signed a collaborative research agreement with Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, the pharmaceutical division of American Home Products Corp., of Madison, N.J. Sangamo will provide gene-specific, zinc-finger DNA-binding proteins, or ZFPs, to Wyeth-Ayerst for use in its internal research programs. Terms were not disclosed.
The Institute for the Study of Aging, of New York, made available $1 million in funding through a request-for-proposals program to the biotechnology industry for drug discovery and drug development for cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease. The institute expects to award two program-related investments of $500,000 ($250,000 per year for two years). The deadline is April 15, with a final decision on funding by July.
Viragen Inc., of Plantation, Fla., closed a $2.5 million private financing of convertible debentures and warrants with an institutional investor. The debentures carry a 6 percent coupon rate and are convertible into common shares at a fixed price of $1.29. They are repayable over a nine-month period following the effective date of the related registration. Monthly payments may be made in either common stock based on market or in cash, with a premium, at the option of the company. The investor received an option to invest an additional $1.5 million at a fixed price of $1.10 per share. The agreement also provides for 405,000 warrants, exercisable at $1.48 per share.
Xenogen Corp., of Alameda, Calif., entered a commercial licensing agreement with Chiron Corp., of Emeryville, Calif., for real-time in vivo imaging technology, granting Chiron access to Xenogen’s suite of technologies for use in preclinical drug development studies. Xenogen will receive an annual fee and the agreement is renewable after its second year. Further financial terms were not disclosed.