* Abgenix Inc., of Fremont, Calif., started a Phase I trial with ABX-IL8 in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The study, being conducted at Northwestern University in Chicago, will involve a small number of patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and should be completed by the second half of 1999. ABX-IL8 is the first fully human antibody from transgenic mouse technology to be tested in humans, the company said.
* Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco cut its staff to 400, resulting in a savings of between $7 million and $8 million. The company eliminated 36 positions that are not currently supporting partnered programs or its oncology initiative, and shifted others to oncology studies.
* Cel-Sci Corp., of Vienna, Va., and Kenneth Rosenthal of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, in Rootstown, Ohio, reported that mice challenged with the herpes simplex virus showed increased survival when immunized with a vaccine based upon Cel-Sci's patented Ligand Epitope Antigen Presentation System (LEAPS) technology. The immunizations allowed the animals to fight the infection much more quickly and effectively, resulting in reduced symptoms and mortality. The results are published in the latest issue of the journal Vaccine.
* Copernicus Therapeutics Inc., of Cleveland, received a $1.5 million Phase II grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, of Bethesda, Md. The grant will support preclinical and early clinical development of PLASmin Complexes that enable the delivery of therapeutic genes via the bloodstream to the cells lining the airways and lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis.
* Genetix Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., signed a collaborative agreement with Cordis, of Miami, for research and development of gene therapy products to treat cardiovascular disease by stimulating new blood vessel formation. Cordis will provide research funding with an option to extend it in the future. Genetix granted Cordix a royalty-bearing license.
* LJL BioSytems Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., raised $7 million in a private placement of 2 million shares of unregistered common stock. The financing brings LJL's total cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments to more than $16 million. Bay City Capital, of San Francisco, and The Kaufmann Fund of New York co-led the investment. The money will support an expanded effort to grow LJL's installed base of high-throughput screening systems at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
* Medarex Inc., of Annandale, N.J., reported that MDX-CD4, its first entirely human antibody product, entered Phase I trials for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study is designed to assess the safety profile of a single dose of MDX-CD4 in patients. MDX-CD4 is a human monoclonal antibody.
* Nanogen Inc., of San Diego, and Aventis Research and Technologies, of Frankfurt, Germany, expanded their collaboration from two to three years, which assures substantial additional funding to Nanogen in the third year. In addition, Nanogen successfully achieved its milestones in 1998 under their 1997 agreement to collaborate on both drug discovery and immunodiagnostics. Aventis (formerly known as Hoechst Research and Technology) is an affiliate of Hoechst Marion Roussel AG, of Frankfurt.
* Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, completed a private placement of approximately 2.25 million shares of common stock, for $6.2 million. The placement was mainly to institutional investors.
* Xenogen Corp., of Alameda, Calif., entered into an evaluation licensing agreement with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., of East Hanover, N.J. Xenogen will provide Novartis with a light-emitting gene system to be genetically engineered into a tumor-cell line developed by Novartis for preclinical drug evaluation. Financial terms were not disclosed. Novartis is an affiliate of Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland.
* Zeneca Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Wilmington, Del., a business unit of Zeneca plc, of London, installed and completed acceptance testing for the first of two Trident Automated Library Synthesizer Systems developed by Argonaut Technologies, of San Carlos, Calif. One system will be used by the lead discovery group, and the other by a medicinal chemistry group for lead optimization. The Trident Automated Library Synthesizer System performs both solution and solid-phase synthesis of up to 192 compounds in four Reaction Cassettes, each holding 48 glass reaction vessels.