¿ Acambis plc, of Cambridge, UK, announced advances in three projects last week with success in a Phase II trial of its vaccine against Japanese encephalitis (JE), the selection of a candidate against West Nile encephalitis, and rapid progress in the development of a smallpox vaccine. The challenge trial in JE showed a rapid rise in protective antibodies in vaccinated subjects, on exposure to the virus. None in the control group showed any antibody response by day seven of the trial. In preclinical testing the West Nile vaccine was safe and immunogenic, and Acambis said it will now start manufacturing supplies for a clinical trial in 2002. The smallpox vaccine has made extremely fast progress. Acambis was contracted to develop it in September 2000 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and said it expects to apply for an IND before the end of 2001 to conduct the first clinical trial.
¿ An Australian Federal Parliamentary committee has declared that Australian scientists should be allowed to use stem cells harvested from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures. But the committee also recommended a three-year moratorium on the practice and a new national licensing body for such work. The federal government must now consider the committee¿s recommendations. Stem cell harvesting is at present mostly forbidden by a patchwork of state regulations.
¿ Cambridge Antibody Technology plc and MorphoSys AG are seeing their patent battle wind on, with CAT last week filing a further suit against MorphoSys in Washington D.C., alleging infringement of two of its patents. This followed the issuing to CAT, of Melbourn, UK, four U.S. patents, designated the Huse/Lerner/Winter patents covering antibody expression libraries. The patents are co-owned by the UK Medical Research Council, the Scripps Research Council and Stratagene, with CAT having sole commercial rights. MorphoSys, of Munich, Germany, already is in dispute with CAT over three other patent families: Winter II, also covering antibody expression libraries; McCafferty, covering phage display; and Griffiths, covering the isolation of human antibodies to human proteins by phage display.
¿ GeneScan Europe AG, of Freiburg, Germany, reduced its sales expectations for 2001 from EUR25 million to EUR19 million. According to preliminary calculations for 2001, GeneScan¿s sales revenues will rise by approximately 60 percent compared to the prior year, the molecular diagnostics company said.
¿ InterCell Biomedical Research and Development AG, of Vienna, Austria, licensed from the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, which is funded by the UK government, an antigen discovery technology for the development of vaccines against a range of infectious diseases. One of the first targets will be hepatitis C, where the aim is to develop a vaccine that is effective after a single injection. InterCell, the first company to spin out of the Vienna BioCenter, a bioincubator founded in 1998, recently raised EUR27 million (US$24.9 million) to support its vaccine development program.
¿ MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,277,621, which broadly covers the use of bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) for generating recombinant viruses for research and therapeutic purposes. BACs may help in producing oncolytic viruses and gene shuttles, the company said.
¿ Oxford GlycoSciences plc, of Abingdon, UK, announced further data in the long-term follow-up in a Phase III trial of OGT 918 in the treatment of Gaucher disease. The data, covering 18 patients who continued taking OGT 918 at the end of first 12-month trial, showed they continued to improve. Fourteen patients have continued into a third year of therapy. OGT 918, which has orphan drug designation in the U.S. and Europe, is an oral inhibitor of glucosylceramide synthase, a key enzyme involved in lipid biosynthesis.
¿ PPL Therapeutics plc, of Edinburgh, UK, finally announced its rights issue to raise #30 million (US$44 million) after delays caused by the effects of the terrorist attacks in New York. The company also said it is looking for a successor for Managing Director Ron James, founder of PPL in 1987, who will retire next year. The company had sufficient funding to last only to the end of the year, after an attempted fund raising to raise #40 million failed in April. The discounted rights issue of 64 million shares at 50 pence per share is underwritten by Deutsche Bank, and will be taken up mainly by existing shareholders. Completion of the fund raising paves the way for the release of further funds to pay for the construction of a manufacturing plant.
¿ Prolifix Ltd., of Abingdon, UK, and academic partner Imperial College, London, were awarded a #308,000 (US$452,700) grant for the discovery of novel antifungals. In the two-year project, scientists at Imperial College will identify genes required for infection, and Prolifix, a specialist in the cell cycle, will take these virulence genes and develop small-molecule inhibitors. The research will be focused on the fungus Candida glabrata. Nicholas La Thangue, CSO of Prolifix, said there currently are only a few classes of antifungals, and a lack of novel, validated targets is a major bottleneck to producing any more.
¿ Protagen AG, of Bochum, Germany, and Proteome Systems Ltd., of Sydney, Australia, entered a collaboration involving exchange of expertise in the area of analysis of post-translational modifications of proteins. The companies also expect access to the partner¿s market, which currently is Australia, Asia and the U.S. for Proteome Systems, and Europe for Protagen, Protagen CEO Christoph H|ls said. As part of the collaboration, Keith Williams, CEO of Proteome Systems, will join the scientific advisory board of Protagen, and Helmut Meyer, chief scientific officer at Protagen, will join the scientific advisory board of Proteome Systems, the companies said.
¿ Schering AG, of Berlin, signed a research and license agreement with Heidelberg, Germany-based bioLeads GmbH related to potential drug compounds derived from microbial strains. BioLeads plans to provide pre-purified subfractions from microbial strains and perform additional research activities to find compounds. In addition, bioLeads granted Schering an exclusive licence to use such compounds for the development, production and marketing of drug products. Financial terms were not disclosed.
¿ SR Pharma plc, of London, announced positive results in a Phase I safety trial of its asthma immunotherapeutic AVAC, saying there were no major adverse effects. AVAC was administered as nasal drops and subjects continued to take their usual medication to control asthma symptoms. The company said this paves the way for a further trial using a nasal spray device to deliver the drug into the airways.
¿ Wilex AG, of Munich, Germany, started a Phase I study with its anti-metastatic drug candidate WX-UK1, a small-molecule inhibitor of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) known to play a critical role in tumor metastasis. Ongoing development of WX-UK1 aims at a combination treatment with chemotherapy for those patients with breast, ovarian or non-small-cell lung cancers who have elevated levels of uPA expressed in their tumors.