¿ Active Biotech AB, of Lund, Sweden, said its small-molecule multiple sclerosis candidate, SAIK-MS, will enter a multicenter Phase II clinical trial in the first quarter of next year. The company has appointed Chris Polman at VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as lead investigator. Additional centers in the UK and Sweden also will participate in the study.

¿ Epigenomics AG, of Berlin, and MethylGene Inc., of Montreal, are collaborating to investigate DNA methylation changes of patients enrolled in Phase II trials of MethylGene¿s cancer drug candidate, MG98. Changes to DNA methylation patterns may indicate, in advance, which patients could respond to treatment by MG98, Epigenomics said. It is Epigenomics¿ first clinical-phase alliance with a biopharmaceutical partner. MG98 is an antisense oligonucleotide that inhibits DNA methyltransferase mRNA. Financial details were not disclosed.

¿ Amaxa GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, appointed Chief Financial Officer Alexander M|ller to its executive board. Before joining Amaxa in January 2001, M|ller held positions with Deutsche Bank AG, of Frankfurt, Germany.

¿ Azign Bioscience A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, said it entered an agreement with Nordic Bioscience A/S, of Copenhagen, to identify new drugs for treatment of diseases of bones and joints, particularly osteoporosis. Terms were not disclosed, but Azign will receive milestone payments and royalties following identification of new products through its gene expression analysis technology. Azign was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of Ballerup, Denmark-based Neurosearch A/S earlier this year, following the latter company¿s acquisition of Display Systems Biotech. Nordic Bioscience, formed through the recent merger of Osteometer BioTech and Osteopro, specializes in osteoporosis research.

¿ Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, is collaborating with the pharmaceutical company

Byk Gulden GmbH

, of Constance, Germany, on a high-throughput imaging system. Evotec plans to start a novel assay development program based on its detection platform for high-throughput imaging, which produces and analyzes microscopic images with high spacial resolution. Intracellular activities can thus be visualized and for the first time recorded precisely in an ultra-high-throughput format, Evotec said, adding that the detector is able to handle more than 200,000 high-resolution images per day. Byk expects enhancement in drug discovery and novel approaches for its high-throughput screening systems. Financial terms were not disclosed.

¿ Germany and Canada plan to further strengthen collaborations in several fields of research including plant biotechnology. A corresponding declaration was signed in Bonn, Germany, last week by the German minister for research and education, Edelgard Bulmahn, and the Canadian minister for science, research and development, Gilbert Normand.

¿ Micromet AG, of Munich, Germany, began a Phase I trial with its proprietary human antibody, MT201, for treating cancer. The antibody is the first drug candidate from Micromet¿s pipeline to enter a clinical study. It is a multicenter, dose-escalation study.

¿ Progen Industries Ltd., of Brisbane, Australia, received an A$3.1 million (US$1.55 million) grant under an Australian federal government program. The company said it will use the money to develop a drug design technology using the ¿basic fibroblast growth factor in cancer.¿

¿ Switch Biotech AG, of Martinsried, Germany, was granted nearly DM2 million (US$927,000) for development of novel strategies in treatment of atopic dermatitis, by the Bavarian Research Foundation. Switch in this project plans to collaborate with the Ludwigs Maximilians University of Munich and Munich Technical University.

¿ U3 Pharma AG, of Martinsried, Germany, said it is ready to start operations following a EUR5 million (US$4.53 million) first financing round. The company was founded to explore the role of signal transduction in disease, initially focusing on the creation of new products for cancer and hyperproliferative diseases. Investors included Alta Partners, of San Francisco; Medicis Ventures, of Munich, Germany; BioM AG, of Munich; and private individuals. Proceeds will be used for corporate infrastructure, recruitment and research and development of current drug targets. The company¿s founder is signal transduction expert Axel Ullrich, of the Martinsried-based Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. He previously founded Sugen Inc., of South San Francisco, and Axxima AG, of Munich.

¿ The UK BioIndustry Association announced the appointment of a new director for Scotland, Barbara Blayney. She joins from the post of director at the consultancy Business Therapies Ltd. The BIA merged with the Scottish Bionetwork Association in May to create a unified UK body representing the industry.

¿ VitaResc AG, of Martinsried, Germany, and Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, extended their collaboration related to development of VitaResc¿s antithrombotic drug VTR-RI. The initial agreement was signed in the summer of 2000. The companies have developed a protocol for high-yield VTR-RI synthesis. Now they plan to scale up production of the drug, supplying clinical-grade material for trials. Such trials are expected to start next spring. Another purpose of the material is development of VTR-RI as a coating agent for biopolymers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

¿ Xerion Pharmaceuticals AG, of Martinsried, Germany, and the pharmaceutical company Byk Gulden GmbH, of Constance, Germany, entered into a target validation agreement. Using its proprietary XCALIbur technology, Xerion plans to functionally analyze targets provided by Byk. Financial terms were not disclosed.

¿ Xenova Group plc, of Slough, UK, said it has started a Phase II combination study of two vaccines for treating human papillomavirus-associated diseases after one, TA-HPV, successfully completed a Phase IIa study, and the other, TA-CIN, a Phase I study. In the physician-led Phase IIa trial of TA-HPV in 18 women with vulval neoplasia, the vaccine was safe and well tolerated, with 44 percent of patients showing objective clinical response and 22 percent showing significant symptom relief. TA-CIN, being developed for cervical neoplasia, was well tolerated and immunogenic in the Phase I trial involving 40 volunteers. The Phase II combination study in up to 30 women with neoplasia will evaluate disease progression over six months.