¿ Acambis plc, of Cambridge, UK, confirmed that it has accelerated the smallpox vaccine development program it is undertaking for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the face of rising fears over the possibility of bioterrrorism. The company has a #230 million (US$335 million) contract to develop and manufacture 40 million doses of vaccine.
¿ Brain AG, of Zwingenberg, Germany, and the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, jointly set up the Center for Molecular Biodiversity and Evolution (ZEB) in Darmstadt. ZEB is expected to investigate soil microbes, and to explore them as a resource for novel enzymes and bioactive compounds.
¿ Cyclacel Ltd., of Dundee, Scotland, was granted a U.S. patent for its cancer drug target, Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA). Inhibition of PCNA prevents DNA replication, and the patent also covers substances that mimic the structure and activity of the p21 tumor suppressor, a naturally occurring inhibitor of PCNA.
¿ Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, agreed to optimize small molecules affecting ubiquitin ligases for Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco. Ubiquitin ligases are involved in cell division and the progression of certain cancers, Evotec said. The company said that it intends to identify a drug candidate ready for clinical trials in 12 months. Evotec will receive fees for service and potential milestones. Evotec¿s work includes synthesis of optimized lead compounds and identification of novel scaffolds from its own and Rigel¿s chemistry portfolio.
¿ Phogen Ltd. entered a research collaboration with Cell Genesys Inc., of Foster City, Calif., to evaluate if its VP22 gene delivery technology can enhance the delivery and effect of Cell Genesys¿ cell cycle control genes. Financial details were not given. Phogen is a joint venture between the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care and Xenova Group plc, of Slough, UK.
¿ UK government officials announced plans to allow directors of biotechnology companies to keep their home addresses private to protect them from animal rights activists. Directors who demonstrate they are at risk will be able to file a service address, rather than their home address, at the central register held at Companies House. The move follows violent attacks at the homes of staff of Huntingdon Life Sciences plc, an animal testing company. The UK BioIndustry Association has campaigned for the change, and said it welcomes the draft regulations.
¿ Zentaris AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, signed an agreement with the European Commission related to Zentaris¿ anti-leishmaniasis drug miltefosin. In a joint project with three academic groups, Zentaris aims at uncovering the drug¿s mode of action. The work is coordinated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. EC supports research with grants of up to EUR1 million. Zentaris in cooperation with the World Health Organisation and the government of India is running Phase III trials in visceral leishmaniasis, which mainly affects the liver and spleen.
¿ Xerion Pharmaceuticals AG, of Martinsried, Germany, appointed Peter Biewald chief financial officer. He previously was director at the telecommunications company VIAG Interkom, of Munich, Germany. In addition, Xerion appointed Yukari Perrella head of U.S. operations, based in Cambridge, Mass. Xerion is a functional proteomics specialist.