Cellestis Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, plans to raise A$9 million (US$4.5 million) in an initial public offering, mainly to market a new test for tuberculosis that has already passed Phase III trials in the U.S. Cellestis Director James Rothel said that only about A$1 million of the money will be used to further develop the technology, which has been licensed from another Melbourne-based biotech company, CSL Ltd. The rest will be spent on marketing the product, known as Quantiferon-TB, as well as establishing production facilities and paying license fees to CSL, he said. Besides the TB diagnosis product, Cellestis has a diagnostic kit for Lyme disease using the same technology platform and is now marketing a research kit to scientific groups for investigating cellular immune responses.
Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, more than doubled its turnover in 2000, with total revenues rising 116 percent to EUR6.9 million (US$6.4 million) from EUR3.2 million the year before. License fees accounted for EUR6 million of the total. The company reported a pro forma net loss of EUR11.2 million, up from EUR 7.3 million in 1999. But that figure excludes a charge of EUR5.1 million for amortization of goodwill and other intangible assets related to the merger between IntroGene BV and U-BiSys BV (out of which Crucell was born), as well as a nonrecurring, noncash write-off of EUR84.1 million associated with the merger and a noncash charge of EUR13.2 million relating to stock option plans. Taking account of those provisions, the total loss for the year comes out to EUR131.6 million. As of Dec. 31, Crucell had cash and cash equivalents of EUR136 million.
Epigenomics AG, of Berlin, and academic groups from Berlin-based Chariti Hospital, Humboldt University and University of Saarland, of Saarbrücken, Germany, will jointly run a research project analyzing the activity of genes in the RAS tumor-signaling pathway, a molecular cascade of events implicated in cancer. A research project conducted by Chariti last year identified more than 200 genes stimulated or repressed by the RAS oncogene using mRNA expression analysis. Epigenomics has proprietary technology for detecting the methylation status of single genes. It shows whether a gene is switched on or off. The project aims at finding out the chronological order of genes active in the signal cascade and developing theoretical models revealing how genes affect each others' activity, Epigenomics spokeswoman Florence Danek said.
GPC Biotech AG, of Martinsried, Germany, plans to expand its capabilities in drug and clinical development. GPC appointed Benno Rattel as its first senior director of drug development. Rattel most recently was director of preclinical research with the pharmaceutical company Klinge Pharma GmbH, Fujisawa Group. GPC set up a preclinical and clinical development advisory panel, joined by Jerome Birnbaum, who formerly held senior R&D positions with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; Stephen Carter, who among other things was instrumental in the successful development of leading cancer treatments at Bristol-Myers; and Briand Prasad Sunkara, who has held several senior R&D positions in pharmaceutical and biotech companies. GPC is working on nine internal product programs. The first candidates expected to enter clinical trials, in 2002, are a small molecule and an antibody, both for treatment of cancer.
NicOx SA, of Sophia Antipolis, saw its revenues (consisting solely of research and development income) rebound to EUR5.6 million (US$5.2 million) last year after falling to just EUR227,000 in 1999, from EUR2.4 million in 1998. Hence, although its R&D outlays more than doubled to EUR7.8 million in 2000 from EUR3.1 million the year before, its net loss fell to EUR3 million (US$2.7 million) from EUR3.6 million in 1999. As of Dec. 31, the company had cash and short-term investments of EUR32.7 million.
Protherics plc, of Macclesfield, UK, has received a significant boost with the news that Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill., will distribute a post-mortem test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) based on Protherics' diagnostic for the prion protein that causes the disease. The test was developed by Protherics' partner, Enfer Scientific Ltd., and is used for large-scale testing in Ireland. The distribution agreement with Abbott follows the launch of a mandatory BSE monitoring and control initiative across Europe. The Protherics/Enfer test was judged to be the fastest and most effective in a review of BSE tests carried out by the EU. Since Jan. 8, 56,000 carcasses have been tested, with results provided overnight.
SR Pharma plc, of London, said it had positive results in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase II trial of its immune potentiator, SRL 172, in atopic dermatitis. The study involved 42 children who had suffered moderate to severe dermatitis for an average of eight years. Those treated with a single injection of SRL 172 showed a mean 48 percent reduction in surface area and 68 percent reduction in severity of the dermatitis, compared with 4 percent reduction in surface area and 18 percent reduction in severity for the placebo group. SR Pharma said it now is planning further trials using a new formulation of SRL 172, developed specifically for the treatment of allergic disorders. This formulation, SRP 299, also will be tested in asthma. SRL 172 is in Phase III in lung cancer, with results due shortly.