¿ Oxford BioMedica plc, of Oxford, UK, received approval from the UK¿s Gene Therapy Advisory Committee to start a further trial of its MetXia gene-activated prodrug therapy in treating breast cancer. The new trial will fold into the current one, and is intended to test a version of the therapeutic produced by a new and more efficient manufacturing process.

¿ KS Biomedix Holdings plc, of Guildford, UK, said it has successfully completed its placing and open offer, raising #16.3 million (US$22.9 million), and completed the acquisition of Avicenna Medica Inc., a privately held Canadian company. KSB paid #4.54 million cash and #41.9 million in shares for Avicenna. CEO Steven Powell said, ¿In the current difficult climate we have succeeded in completing a fund raising that will allow us to finance the development of our enlarged, late-stage oncology portfolio and build on our strategy to focus upon biopharmaceutical product development.¿

¿ NicOx SA, of Sophia Antipolis, France, said its nitric oxide-releasing aspirin compounds were the subject of a $2 million grant awarded by the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. to the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, N.Y. The grant will finance a five-year study of the effects of the company¿s aspirin derivatives, including its lead compound, NCX 4016, on the chemoprevention of colon cancer. The AHF scientists will study the mechanism by which NO-releasing derivatives of aspirin enhance the effect of traditional aspirin on the growth of colon cancer cells by a factor of several thousand. As well as looking at their effect on the development of colon cancer in animal models, they will examine the impact of these derivatives on cell kinetics, cell cycle and the eicosanoid and nitric oxide pathways.

¿ Oxford GlycoSciences plc, of Abingdon, UK, said the marketing application for its lead product, Vevesca (OGT 918), was accepted for review by the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medical Products and that it is submitting the drug to the FDA. At the same time, the company announced a new clinical study of the product in treating Type 1 Gaucher disease, at New York University School of Medicine. The data will not form part of the NDA, but are intended to persuade clinicians in the U.S. that Vevesca, which is orally administered, has advantages over the existing treatment, Genzyme Corp.¿s Cerezyme, which is administered by injection.

¿ Phytopharm plc, of Godmanchester, UK, said it successfully completed the second stage of its Phase II study of P57, an appetite suppressant derived from a South African plant. No serious adverse effects were experienced by any of the 18 overweight, but otherwise healthy, males in the trial. The study will now progress to the third stage, designed to measure the effects on daily calorie intake of P57, compared to placebo, when administered over at least 10 days to overweight volunteers. P57 is licensed to Pfizer Inc., of New York.

¿ Protherics plc, of Macclesfield, UK, agreed to the sale of its computerized molecular design operations to the drug discovery company Tularik Inc., of South San Francisco, in an all-share deal valued at #6.7 million (US$9.4 million). There is no lock-in and Protherics said the sale will reduce cash burn and allow it to reach profitability without raising any more money. The company¿s research director, Allen Miller, will join Tularik.

¿ Xenova Group plc, of Slough, UK, said its anticocaine addiction vaccine TA-CD has been released from clinical hold by the FDA. The TA-CD Phase II study was placed on hold in August 2000 after a related product caused eye irritation in preclinical studies. No such effects were observed with TA-CD in humans, and further testing of the related product showed no safety implications. Xenova also released data on the Phase IIa trial of nine outpatient cocaine addicts, showing TA-CD was well tolerated and generated cocaine-specific antibodies. TA-CD mops up cocaine in the bloodstream, preventing it from crossing into the brain and blocking dopamine uptake. It is intended to be administered during the ninth-month period it takes for the addiction craving to be lost. No cocaine metabolites were detected in five out of eight evaluable patients, indicating no further drug use. Those who relapsed reported an attenuation of the usual euphoric effects of cocaine.

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