¿ 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.

¿ 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.