¿ HepaVec AG, of Berlin, closed a second, DM8 million (US$3.7 million) private financing round led by Techno Venture Management (TVM), of Munich, Germany. Current investors Dansk Kapitalanlaeg, of Denmark, and Alpinvest International NV, of the Netherlands, along with two new investors - Industrie Management Holding GmbH, of Germany, and KB Lux Venture Capital Fund, of Luxembourg - also participated. CEO Herbert Stadler said the capital would be used to increase HepaVec's efforts in the field of liver-directed viral vector development and to initiate a Phase I/II clinical trial of the company's product directed against primary liver tumors. The trials are scheduled to start end of this year and will test a therapy using modified adenovirus vectors carrying a combination of p53 and p16 genes.

¿ Oxford BioMedica plc, of Oxford, UK, signed a license with the UK government institute, the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR), granting exclusive rights to a series of novel nitroreductase genes isolated at CAMR. Oxford Biomedica plans to use the genes for prodrug activation in gene-targeted cancer treatments. The company said the nitroreductase enzymes produced by the genes are the most active of their kind, and are many times more potent than other enzymes that have been used to activate prodrugs at tumor sites. It expects to take them into clinical trials very soon. Another gene targeted prodrug developed by the company, MetXia-P450, is in Phase I/II trials in ovarian and breast cancer.

¿ Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc, of Melbourn, UK, announced one-year results from its Phase I/II trial of CAT-152, a monoclonal antibody against transforming growth factor beta-2, designed to prevent post-operative scarring in patients undergoing surgery for glaucoma. In the double-blind placebo-controlled trial, 11 of the 16 patients who received CAT-152 did not require intervention or resumption of topical medicine, compared to two of eight on placebo. The mean intraocular pressure also was lower in the CAT-152 group, and there were no safety problems or side effects. CAT said it was encouraged by the results, despite the low patient numbers. The patients in this trial will be followed for a further year, and a larger Phase II clinical trial is under way, with further trials planned for 2001.