¿ Atugen AG, of Berlin, and AstraZeneca plc, of London, entered a collaboration aimed at enhancing the efficiency of target validation and drug development in a number of major disease areas of interest to AstraZeneca. Atugen is expected to use its proprietary antisense technology, GeneBloc, to validate gene targets selected by AstraZeneca. The companies plan to jointly analyze the effects of the GeneBlocs in assays and animal models. Atugen retains all rights to the GeneBlocs developed and expects an option to license certain intellectual property generated in the collaboration. AstraZeneca will have the opportunity to expand the one-year agreement into a multiyear collaboration. Financial terms were not disclosed.

¿ Biomax Informatics AG, of Martinsried, Germany, launched a novel software for systematic analysis and visualization of gene expression data from different experiments. The product, called Biomax Gene Expression Analysis Suite, enables researchers to quickly find groups of co-expressed genes, evaluate active metabolic pathways, and predict interactions among the corresponding proteins, the company said.

¿ Medical Marketing International Group plc, of Cambridge, UK, a technology management company, secured exclusive rights from Provalis plc to develop CCX2, an anticancer compound. CCX2 is derived from natural plant material and has shown significant activity in inhibiting ovarian tumors, with indications of activity in other tumor types. Earlier this month MMI said it had set up a shell company, Natramed, to in-license and develop botanicals.

¿ Ester Neurosciences Ltd., of Tel Aviv, Israel, and Pharmacopeia Inc., of Princeton, N.J., entered into a research and development agreement for the identification of novel small-molecule drug candidates directed against a range of neurological diseases that involve the upregulation of an Ester target, a rare variant of acetylcholinesterase (AChE-R). Pharmacopeia will screen its chemical library of small molecules to identify compounds that will be effective in pre-expression inhibition of AChE-R. Pharmacopeia will receive funding for providing its research activities and will be entitled to additional payments upon identification of active compounds and the achievement of other milestones. Pharmacopeia also could receive royalties. Further financial details were not disclosed.

¿ Graffinity Pharmaceutical Design GmbH, of Heidelberg, Germany, said it delivered the first results in a chemical microarray collaboration with Aventis Pharma GmbH, of Frankfurt, Germany, four months after signing the initial agreement.

¿ LION bioscience AG, of Heidelberg, Germany, launched LION Web-Based Training (WBT) Bioinformatics. This is a learning management system that enables end users to learn about bioinformatics applications and software using their own data. LION¿s training platform can be customized to fit into a company¿s existing learning system or developed as a stand-alone training solution, LION said. The pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany, is the first customer.

¿ MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,300,064 titled ¿Protein/(poly)peptide libraries.¿ The patent is related to MorphoSys¿ Human Combinatorial Antibody Library (HuCAL) platform. It covers certain methods for the construction of synthetic, fully modular human antibody libraries based on in silico consensus sequences. These consensus sequences are scaffolds for rebuilding the full repertoire of human antibodies, a MorphoSys spokeswoman explained. A related HuCAL patent was issued in Australia in the year 2000, and further patent applications are pending in Canada, Europe and Japan, MorphoSys said. In addition, MorphoSys recently was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,294,353 titled ¿Targeted hetero-association of recombinant proteins to multi-functional complexes,¿ the company said.

¿ Oxagen Ltd., of Abingdon, UK, said it acquired exclusive rights to patents covering gene polymorphisms associated with its work in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The rights, from the technology transfer arm of Oxford University, Isis Innovation, include a polymorphism linked to a previously unrecognized pathway for the development of atopic dermatitis. Oxagen will test the genes against its extensive family-based genotype and phenotype data, to assess their value as diagnostic markers or new targets.