Cerep SA, of Paris, posted a profit in the second half of 2000, and expects to have broken even in the full financial year ended Dec. 31. The drug discovery company had already announced a reduced net loss of EUR0.6 million for the first six months of 2000, following a 12-month shortfall of EUR4.9 million (US$5 million) in 1999. Revenues in the fourth quarter of 2000 were up 44.9 percent to the corresponding period of 1999, at EUR5.7 million, while for the year as a whole they were fully 70 percent higher, totaling EUR18.3 million. CEO Thierry Jean said, "Cerep should attain break-even in 2000 thanks to very satisfactory operating earnings in the second half." He told BioWorld International that service fees had soared by 61.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2000, describing them as "recurrent revenues" that were a "factor of stability" in Cerep's financial performance. The company reported that its cash reserves stood at EUR7.8 million at Dec. 31, up from EUR7.6 million on June 30, 2000.

Crucell NV, of Leiden, the Netherlands, signed a production contract with DirectGene Inc., of Annapolis, Md., providing for it to manufacture clinical-grade batches of a DirectGene prostate cancer drug. The Dutch company will utilize its PER.C6 human cell line production platform to manufacture the batches, which will be dispatched to DirectGene in the U.S. for use in clinical trials of the compound that are due to start later this year. DirectGene signed a licensing agreement with Crucell last October for access to the latter's PER.C6 technology. The contract is significant for Crucell insofar as it is the first of its kind concluded with one of the 15 companies that have licensed its PER.C6 technology.

Genset SA, of Paris, appointed Jeffrey S. Vick to the post of development and licensing manager. Vick has had 16 years experience in the biotechnology industry in the U.S., where he was previously development manager at Cytovia Inc. and as such negotiated collaborations with BioChem Pharma, Axys Pharmaceuticals and Aurora Biosciences. Before that, he had been head of new venture management at Sanderling Venture Capital (from 1996 to 1998) and development manager of DepoTech Corp. (1992 to 1996).

Immuno-Designed Molecules, of Paris, started a Phase II clinical trial of its cellular vaccine, IDD-3, in malignant melanoma. The study forms part of the Cellular Vaccine project being financed by the European Union and is being conducted at two centers in Brussels. It plans to enroll between 12 and 17 patients, two of whom have already received their first doses. Four doses of IDD-3 are to be administered to each patient over 85 days and the first results are expected in the autumn. The IDD-3 vaccine consists of "dendritophages," dendritic cells derived from the patient's white globules, into which specific antigens extracted from cancerous cells called lysates are inserted in vitro. The lysates are extracted from a melanoma cell line. The vaccine is designed to generate or stimulate an immune system reaction against the patient's tumor so that it is rejected and attacked by the organism itself.

KS Biomedix plc, of London, entered a collaboration with the Bioprocessing Technology Center (BTC) in Singapore, becoming a preferred partner and giving KS Biomedix preferential access to manufacturing facilities for its high-affinity monoclonal antibodies. BTC is due to open in October. Under the deal, KS Biomedix will provide proprietary materials and know-how to assist construction of the center, and will contribute toward the cost of developing and optimizing the GMP manufacturing process.

MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, was issued U.S. Patent No. 6,171,597, which protects its method for using recombinant adeno-associated viruses (AAV) to produce patient-specific tumor vaccines. The protection will last until 2017. AAV is a method for therapeutic gene delivery.

MWG Biotech AG, of Ebersberg, Germany, has reduced sales expectations in its business plan for 2001 from DM180 million (US$85.6 million) to DM147 million. Difficult business in the U.S. and recently made major investments are affecting MWG's business, the company said.

Oxford BioMedica plc, of Oxford, UK, made an initial payment of £180,000 (US$262,500) for exclusive rights to RARbeta2, a gene associated with nerve regeneration, which it said could lead to a treatment for nerve damage in spinal injuries and neuropathies associated with diabetes and vascular disorders. At the same time, Oxford BioMedica said it will establish a collaboration in neurobiology with the research team at King's College, London, that discovered RARbeta2. Under a separate agreement, King's College made an equity investment of £150,000 in Oxford BioMedica. RARbeta2 is normally inactive in adults. Researchers at King's reactivated the gene in adult nerve cells, restoring the ability of nerve cells to grow after injury.

Phytopharm plc, of Godmanchester, UK, started a Phase II trial of P54, an orally administered extract of the spice tumeric, in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). P54 is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory that works by inhibiting the production of the pro-inflammatory enzyme cyclo-oxygenase 2, which is increased in inflammatory diseases and certain cancers. The study is a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 36 patients with steroid-dependent IBD.