¿ Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics BV (AMT), of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Xenon Genetics Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, for Xenon¿s lipoprotein lipase technology (LPL). This extends AMT¿s hold on LPL technologies, enabling the company to develop a gene therapy product for LPL deficiency. Under the deal, AMT and Xenon will collaborate on a preclinical research program for LPL gene therapy, to be carried out at the University of British Columbia, where the LPL technology was developed by Michael Hayden. LPL is the principal enzyme involved in the clearance of triglycerides from plasma. Individuals who have LPL deficiency develop chronic pancreatitis, ultimately resulting in diabetes mellitus. Jan Boesen, managing director of AMT, said, ¿LPL deficiency is a perfect target for gene therapy. With this agreement AMT has all the tools to develop a cure for this urgent medical need.¿

¿ Avlar BioVentures, of Cambridge, UK, announced the first closing, at #38 million (US$55 million), of its second fund directed at seed and early stage investments in biotechnology. The Avlar BioVentures Fund II has a target of #75 million. The larger size of this fund, compared to the first fund, which raised #20.7 million, will allow Avlar to undertake larger start-ups and to be a longer-term capital partner. The second closing is planned for the end of 2001. The first fund closed in March 1999 and has made investments in 11 companies, three of which have had second-round financing at a higher valuation, and one, Gendaq Ltd., which has been sold.

¿ Evotec OAI, of Hamburg, Germany, appointed Mark Whittaker director, drug discovery. Before joining Evotec he was director of chemistry at British Biotech Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Oxford, UK.

¿ The Australian Federal Government has handed out grants totaling A$2.4 million (US$1.35 million) to 11 biotechnology companies involved in a wide range of fields, including bioinformatics, development of monoclonal antibodies and genetics.

¿ Genesto AS, of Copenhagen, Denmark, entered a collaboration with Medarex Inc., of Princeton, N.J., for development of fully human therapeutic antibodies, using Medarex¿s UltiMAb technology to generate antibodies against infectious disease targets provided by Genesto. Terms were not disclosed, but Genesto will be responsible for the development and commercialization of any products. Medarex will receive license fees, milestones and royalties on any sales. Simon Rye Clausen, founder and CEO of Genesto, said, ¿We intend to commercialize new treatment options for patients suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases.¿

¿ Graffinity Pharmaceutical Design GmbH, of Heidelberg, Germany, and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, of Munich, Germany, were jointly granted a fundamental patent covering Graffinity¿s proprietary surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology. SPR is a label-free microarray tool used to aid drug discovery. The patent strengthens Graffinity¿s intellectual property position in the field of chemical microarray technology for drug discovery.

¿ LION bioscience AG, of Heidelberg, Germany, filed its first patent application for a series of lead compounds 16 months after the bioinformatics company started its own drug discovery operations. The discovery process tightly integrated information-driven biological research, assay development, computational chemistry and combinatorial chemistry, LION said, adding that the result confirms the acceleration that can be achieved by applying integrated information technology solutions in research for drug discovery. Drug discovery for LION is a ¿showcase for development of comprehensive [information technology] solutions for the drug discovery and development process,¿ LION¿s chief scientific officer, Jan Mous, said, adding that LION through its own drug discovery also wants to generate long-term revenues. The filed compounds are active against an undisclosed nuclear receptor. For clinical development LION plans to outlicense its drug candidates to a pharmaceutical company.

¿ MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, signed an exclusive option agreement with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, of New York, for intellectual property regarding the use of chemotherapy in combination with MediGene¿s proprietary oncolytic herpes simplex viruses (HSV) for the treatment of cancer. The combination of chemotherapy and oncolytic HSV could lead to improved efficacy and fewer side effects, MediGene said.

¿ MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, said the District Court for Washington, D.C., preliminarily ruled in MorphoSys¿ favor in a patent dispute with Cambridge Antibody Technology plc (CAT) concerning the Griffiths patent (U.S. Patent No. 5,885,793). The ruling followed a March 2001 trial at which the jury could not reach a verdict on the validity of the patent or whether MorphoSys infringed it. The preliminary ruling issued now states that ¿MorphoSys should prevail on the issue of infringement,¿ pending further briefings or proceedings, MorphoSys said. CAT said the judge ruled for it on four of five invalidity assertions. The fifth will be tried in court.

¿ MPB Cologne GmbH, of Cologne, Germany, licensed its proprietary gene switch technology to Aventis CropScience, of Lyon, France. The technology allows researchers to control regulation of gene expression in plants and to direct DNA excision, for eliminating marker genes from transgenic plants. The technology is based on a recombinase inactivated by fusion to a ligand-binding domain (recLBD). If the corresponding ligand is added to the plant, the recombinase gets activated and cuts the unwanted marker gene out of the plant¿s genome. Aventis is MPB¿s first licensee of recLBD. Financial details were not disclosed. MPB last year acquired the exclusive rights to commercial use of the gene switch system in plants from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. In its own research, MPB applies the recLBD technology to further improve on producing industrial and therapeutic proteins in genetically modified potato tubers.

¿ MWG-Biotech AG, of Ebersberg, Germany, named Thomas Becker chief financial officer on an interim basis until March 2002, focusing mainly on implementing restructuring measures in the company.

¿ Prolifix Ltd., of Abingdon, UK, and a consortium of seven European academic laboratories have won a EUR2.2 million (US$2 million) European Union grant for a three-year research program into the causes of aging. Prolifix is the only industrial partner in the project that aims to identify the causes of natural aging; determine how centenarians defy this process; discover what promotes premature aging in disorders such as Werner¿s and Down¿s syndromes; and understand why the skin and vascular systems of certain patients exhibit accelerated aging. Prolifix, a drug discovery company specializing in the cell cycle, will have rights to all commercially relevant intellectual property resulting from the research.

¿ The UK Medical Research Council is considering setting up a bank of embryonic stem cells. The proposal is at an early stage, but the idea is to create a single, comprehensive bank of stem cells, established from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization treatment. The publicly owned cell bank initially would be used for research, but as cell therapy becomes a reality, would be a clinical resource. The formation of the bank was recommended last year by Liam Donaldson, the government chief medical officer, and has been given added impetus by President Bush¿s decision to restrict public funding for stem cell research to 60 existing stem cell lines. This is likely to hamper federally funded research in the field in the U.S. One U.S. academic has cited restrictions on stem cell research to explain his decision to move to the UK. Roger Pedersen, currently professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, is taking up a post at the University of Cambridge in September.

¿ Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers in Melbourne, Australia, have isolated stem cells, able to develop into new nerve cells, from the brains of adult mice. Scientists at the institute had previously shown that mouse brains had such stem cells, and now they can routinely identify and purify those cells. The research was published in the journal Nature.