¿ Biofrontier Partners, of Tokyo and San Diego, said it established the largest Japanese venture fund focusing on biotechnology and life sciences technology, raising more than $50 million from 22 Japanese firms. The limited partners include pharmaceutical firms and financial institutions. The fund will invest in promising companies worldwide.

¿ Equity4life AG, a new venture capital fund based in Zurich, Switzerland, closed on a CHF150 million (US$90 million) fund that will be used to invest in high-growth areas within the healthcare sector, particularly on young, unlisted companies in biotechnology, laboratory equipment/diagnostics and services.

¿ MorphoSys AG, of Martinsried, Germany, announced an extension of an existing agreement with Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., which started as a LeukoSite Inc. collaboration in 1998. Prior to its acquisition by Millennium, LeukoSite had submitted to MorphoSys three targets to develop therapeutic antibodies against inflammation diseases. Millennium now will provide seven additional targets. Financial details were not disclosed.

¿ Prolifix Ltd., of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said it has discovered a further mechanism regulating cell division, which is significant to the development of tumours. The company, working in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, has identified a group of proteins that control the activation of E2F, a cellular protein that drives cell growth and division. Tumour cells exhibit excess E2F activity, and Prolifix says this occurs because one or more of the proteins controlling E2F are faulty. The company is developing small molecule drugs that arrest E2F and thereby prevent tumour cells from proliferating. The research is published in Nature Cell Biology, April 2000, pp. 232 -239.

¿ Protherics plc, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, said it had positive results from a trial of DigiTAb in treating oleander poisoning in Sri Lanka. Oleander, a plant commonly found throughout southeast Asia and the U.S., causes cardiac failure arising from arrhythmia induced by glucosides of the digitalis group. Accidental and deliberate self-poisoning is a serious health problem in rural areas of Sri Lanka. In the trial, 34 patients received DigiTAb and 32 placebo. Of the 34 treated patients, 15 recovered completely after two hours, compared to two patients who received placebo. After eight hours, 24 of the treated patients and five of the control had a normal heart rhythm. The data will be used to support an FDA filing made in August 1999 for the use of DigiTAb in the treatment of digoxin poisoning.

¿ SkyePharma plc, of London, signed an agreement under which Bioglan Pharma plc, of Hitchin, England, will manufacture, market and distribute Solarase in Europe. Solarase is a topical gel for actinic keratosis, a precancerous skin condition. SkyePharma will receive a licensing fee and royalties. The product is approved in five EU member states.

¿ Trinity Biotech plc, of Bray, Ireland, acquired privately held MarDX Diagnostics Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., for US$4 million. MarDX's principal product is a confirmatory Western blot test for Lyme disease, which is the U.S. market leader, according to Trinity Biotech. The company plans to relocate its sales and marketing staff for North and South America to MarDX's 38,000-square-foot leased facility in California.