4SC AG, of Martinsried, Germany, and Wilex AG, of Munich, started a collaboration to optimize and synthesize novel inhibitors of the enzyme human urokinase-type plasminogen activator, which is important in tumor metastasis. 4SC plans to build and screen virtual combinatorial libraries for novel compounds based on Wilex’s urokinase inhibitor, WX-293. 4SC receives research funding and, if Wilex selects and develops novel compounds, milestone payments.
Atugen AG, of Berlin, signed a collaboration agreement with Novo Nordisk A/S, of Bagsvaerd, Denmark, aimed at the validation of novel genetic targets associated with diabetes and related diseases. Atugen expects to receive up-front and annual payments, as well as potential milestones and royalties. Atugen may develop antisense therapeutics against targets that Novo Nordisk declines to investigate further. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc, of Royston, UK, announced progress in two of its collaborations, saying that Human Genome Sciences Inc., of Rockville, Md., and Immunex Corp., of Seattle, are to take up rights to develop monoclonal antibodies discovered by CAT. HGS will enter into an exclusive partnership on an antibody to TRAIL-R1, a tumor necrosis receptor discovered by HGS that is preferentially expressed on many solid tumors. The TRAIL-R1 antibody is the second candidate to come out of the CAT/HGS collaboration entered in March 2000. David Chiswell, CEO of CAT, said the TRAIL-R1 antibody is the first candidate isolated directly from CAT’s libraries that has not required further optimization. The option exercised by Immunex is one of eight granted to it under a deal with CAT signed in December 2000 to develop antibodies specific to an undisclosed disease target.
Cardion AG, of Erkrath, Germany, expanded its executive board. The company appointed Chief Financial Officer Niels Ackermann and Chief Scientific Officer Manfred Rüdiger new members of the board.
Celltech Group plc, of Slough, UK, signed an agreement with Maxygen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., to use Maxygen’s Molecular Breeding technology in four of its monoclonal antibody programs. The value of the deal was not disclosed but Maxygen may receive license and option fees, R&D funding, milestones and royalties. Celltech retains exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize any products. Molecular Breeding is a directed evolution technology that can be used to optimize antibodies.
DxS Ltd., of Manchester, UK, which specializes in human genetic analysis, announced the first customer for its Scorpions genotyping service: Eurogentec, of Belgium. DxS was founded in June by Steve Little and David Whitcombe, who invented the Scorpions technology while at AstraZeneca plc’s diagnostics division in Northwich, Cheshire. Scorpions can be used to develop a specific test for each of the 3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms in the genome. DxS also expects laboratories to be established to test patient samples to help doctors select the most appropriate treatment.
Gentech, of Sophia-Antipolis, France, launched a new version of its Biotechnix 3-D integrated software program for the latest generation of Apple Mac OS X computers. Biotechnix 3-D is a set of tools for analyzing DNA sequences and proteins. Gentech specializes in bioinformatics and agro-biotechnology.
GPC Biotech AG, of Martinsried, Germany, said it achieved a milestone in its osteoarthritis alliance with Aventis Pharma AG, of Frankfurt, Germany. Aventis selected a target validated by GPC and plans to move it into high-throughput screening for potential osteoarthritis drug compounds. The milestone triggers an undisclosed payment from Aventis to GPC Biotech.
MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, expanded its collaboration with Biogen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., which started in December 2000. Biogen now has access to MorphoSys’ new antibody library, HuCAL Gold. In addition, both partners increased the number of gene fragments, or expressed sequence tags, which MorphoSys will generate antibodies against. Biogen also may develop certain antibodies into drugs. MorphoSys will get additional research and license fees from the expansion. Financial details were not disclosed.
NicOx SA, of Sophia Antipolis, France, received a favorable response from the FDA for its investigational new drug application to initiate clinical trials in the U.S. of HCT 1026, its nitric oxide-releasing derivative of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug flurbiprofen, in the indication of urinary incontinence. Phase I and II trials of the drug already have been carried out in Europe, including a Phase II study in acute incontinence that has just been completed and whose results are being evaluated. A Phase I trial of HCT 1026 also has been conducted in acute contact urticaria.
Onyvax Ltd., of London, said it started a Phase II trial of OnyvaxP, a vaccine for the treatment of prostate cancer in patients who have failed hormone therapy. All 30 patients will receive active treatment of monthly injections for 12 months. The Phase I/II trial showed that OnyvaxP, a combination of irradiated cells derived from patients at different stages of the disease, is capable of generating an immune response with an increase in cytokine production, antibody response and evidence of T-cell proliferation.
Oxford Gene Technology Ltd., of Oxford, UK, sold its DNA microarray business to Arrow Therapeutics Ltd., of London, for an undisclosed amount, largely consisting of Arrow shares. The deal gives privately held Arrow the exclusive right to use the microarray technology in its anti-infectives discovery program, in which it is hunting for genes that express enzymes essential to the survival of pathogens. The services arm of OGT will discontinue its other activities. OGT’s patent estate, which includes the much-disputed Southern array patents, is not included in the transaction, and OGT says it will continue its program of patent licensing.
Qiagen NV, of Venlo, the Netherlands, plans to open a new research and manufacturing complex in Germantown, Md. The start of operations is anticipated by the end of February. The company expects to employ more than 300 in the facility, which would be operated by Qiagen Sciences Inc., the company’s wholly owned U.S. subsidiary.
Transgene SA, of Strasbourg, France, initiated a Phase I trial of its adeno interferon gamma (Ad-IFNg) immunotherapeutic product candidate for the treatment of cutaneous lymphoma. The trial is being conducted in Zurich, Switzerland, on at least nine patients suffering from advanced cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) or multilesional B-cell lymphoma. The IFNg recombinant protein already has shown promising clinical responses when administered into cutaneous lymphoma tissue. Transgene’s Ad-IFNg product uses a nonreplicative adenovirus vector to generate a local secretion of IFNg that triggers an antitumor effect. Preclinical studies have shown that the product generates favorable expression of the human IFNg gene. The Phase I dose-escalation trial will evaluate the safety, immune effects and the potential clinical activity of multiple intratumoral injections of the product.
Vernalis plc, of Winnersh, UK, said it has selected a lead compound, VER-11135, an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. By targeting adenosine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in motor coordination and movement control, Vernalis expects it will avoid the dyskinesias associated with dopamine-based therapies. There is also evidence that A2A receptor antagonists may act as neuroprotectants, reducing or preventing the death of neurons in the brain, including those that are lost in Parkinson’s disease. Preclinical work on VER-11135 will be completed in 2002, with the compound entering clinical development in 2003.