¿ Australian officials implemented a tough new regulatory regime governing genetically modified organisms officially started last week. The main work of the new Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, a federal government agency, will involve trials of modified forms of plants. It will also oversee trials of new treatments for animals and humans.

¿ Genetix Group plc, of New Milton, UK, has acquired exclusive rights to computer software for the recognition and analysis of disease genes. The software, licensed from the University of Hertfordshire, makes it possible to compare DNA fragments derived from diseased tissue with DNA from normal tissue on an industrial scale. It will be incorporated into Genetix¿s robotic gene discovery system.

¿ Curacyte AG, of Munich, Germany, appointed John Maraganore as a member of its supervisory board. He is senior vice president, strategic product development, of Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. Curacyte also announced acquisition of the intellectual property rights for small-molecule Factor Xa inhibitors from the University of Jena, Germany. Factor Xa is a key enzyme in blood clotting. Curacyte and the university¿s center for vascular biology and medicine plan to collaborate, identifying an optimal oral inhibitor of Factor Xa, Curacyte said, adding that after lead optimization it plans to develop the inhibitor as an oral anticoagulant for venous and arterial thrombotic disorders. Financial details were not disclosed.

¿ GeneScan Europe AG, of Freiburg, Germany, said it expects Stephan Engelhorn to be elected chairman of its supervisory board. Engelhorn is CEO of Bionet Finance Holding, of Munich, president of SCIL Technology Holding, of Martinsried, and former member of the board of directors of Corange Ltd., which was sold to Hoffmann-LaRoche, of Basel, Switzerland, in 1997. Previous chairman and GeneScan co-founder Christoph Ehlers is leaving the board.

¿ German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vidrine last week in Berlin agreed to launch a joint initiative in the United Nations against the reproductive cloning of humans. They intend to create an internationally binding legal instrument that makes clear that reproductive cloning of humans is unacceptable and incompatible with human dignity, the German foreign ministry said in a prepared statement.

¿ MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, started Phase I/II clinical trials on a vaccine against metastases of malignant melanomas. MediGene and Aventis Pharma, of Frankfurt, Germany, have jointly developed the vaccine. MediGene nets a milestone payment by Aventis of DM2 million (US$883,000). The trials are expected to last until mid-2003, MediGene spokesmoman Christine Bohner told BioWorld International.

¿ MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, and ImmunoGen, Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., extended a current collaboration on therapeutic antibodies, under which MorphoSys is developing fully human antibodies to a single ImmunoGen target. Immunogen plans to license MorphoSys¿ HuCAL. (Human Combinatorial Antibody Library) technology to generate antibodies for research purposes. ImmunoGen will pay technology access and annual subscription fees to MorphoSys during the four-year term, Morphosys said.

¿ Oxford GlycoSciences plc, of Abingdon, UK, has signed a collaborative partner to find small-molecule drugs against its swelling portfolio of disease-associated proteins. The deal is with NeoGenesis Inc., a private company based in Cambridge, Mass. NeoGenesis has a chemical genomics drug discovery platform called Automated Ligand Identification System that can rapidly screen large numbers of targets, and identify small-molecule ligands of high affinity and high selectivity. OGS will provide NeoGenesis with research funding, milestone payments and royalties on candidates and products. It will commercialize all products and is taking an undisclosed stake in NeoGenesis.

¿ SR Pharma plc, of London, said it has started a Phase II trial of SRP299 in the treatment of asthma. The 120-patient trial will be fully funded by Sakai Chemical Industry Co Ltd., of Japan, which has licensed the product for Japan. SRP299 was also successful in a Phase II trial in children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, and SR Pharma says it is planning further trials in parallel with the asthma program.

¿ Xenova Group plc, of Slough, UK, will cut 45 jobs after a strategic review following the merger with Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc. It also is cutting out some programs but will not reveal which until its interim results on Aug. 14. Overall, the cuts will save #9 million per annum, from a combined cash burn of #24.3 million. Xenova had #24.9 million cash on March 31.

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