* EnzyMed Inc., of Iowa City, Iowa, entered a research collaboration with Merck & Co., of Whitehouse Station, N.J. The deal calls for EnzyMed to focus on lead optimization of selected Merck compounds. Specific financial details were not disclosed, but the agreement calls for up-front funding and potential milestone and royalty payments to EnzyMed.
* MGI Pharma Inc., of Minneapolis, said it is expanding its Phase II study with MGI 114, an anticancer drug, to include 16 more evaluable patients. The decision to expand the trial was made after the minimum response criteria for expansion were observed in patients in the trial. MGI 114 is the lead compound in a family of cytotoxic agents called acylfulvenes.
* Signal Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, completed preclinical studies demonstrating the ability of two series of compounds to safely and effectively inhibit bone resorption in osteoporosis. The drug leads belong to a new class of small-molecule compounds termed selective estrogen receptor modulators, also referred to as "designer estrogens."
* Sonus Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Bothell, Wash., said its licensing agreement has been terminated with Daiichi Pharmaceutical Corp., of Tokyo, for EchoGen (perflenapent), an injectable emulsion imaging agent. The deal was signed in 1995, and gave Daiichi marketing and distribution rights in Japan and nine other Pacific Rim nations. Sonus said it was concerned about the lack of clinical progress following completion of Phase I trials, and is seeking another company with which to forge an agreement.
* Techniclone Inc., of Tustin, Calif., began treating the first patient in a Phase II multicenter clinical study of tumor necrosis therapy, being investigated for the treatment of malignant brain cancer. The study has a planned enrollment of 40 patients, and will be conducted at four sites in the U.S.
* Zila Inc., of Phoenix, reported that the FDA's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee will review its new drug application (NDA) Jan. 13 for OraTest, an oral cancer detection system. OraTest, which received priority review status, is a patented five-minute mouth rinse sequence.
* Avant Immunotherapeutics Inc., of Needham, Mass., received a further option payment from Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland, relating to their ongoing collaboration focused on TP10, Avant's complement inhibitor, for use in allotransplantation. The amount of the payment, made by the Novartis Pharma AG sector of the Swiss company, was not disclosed.
* Cerus Corp., of Concord, Calif., said a preclinical study showed its platelet pathogen inactivation system inactivated high levels of human hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses in platelet concentrates. The systems are designed to target and inactivate blood-borne pathogens while leaving the therapeutic properties of transfusion products intact. Data from the primate study show the concentrates contaminated with the two types of virus, once treated with the system, could be safely transfused and did not transmit either virus to susceptible primates receiving the transfusions.
* ChemRx, of LaJolla, Calif., and Signal Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, entered a chemistry-based development agreement. ChemRx will develop multiple classes of compounds for Signal's drug discovery and lead optimization libraries. Financial terms were not disclosed.
* Immunex Corp., of Seattle, said preclinical data show mice treated with a combination of two investigational molecules, Mobist (Flt3 ligand) and CD40 ligand (CD40L), demonstrated a higher rate of tumor rejection than either molecule alone. Mice were injected with tumor cells and then treated with one of the drugs, a combination of the two, or mouse serum albumin (MSA), a control protein, for 20 days. Sixty-two percent of mice treated with both drugs rejected the tumors, compared to 25 percent of those receiving Mobist alone. Animals treated with either CD40L alone or MSA alone failed to reject the tumor.
* NeXstar Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Boulder, Colo., reported that 13 Phase I and Phase II trials suggest that DaunoXome may have promise as a potential treatment for a variety of life-threatening hematological malignancies, including adult and pediatric leukemias and multiple myeloma. DaunoXome is a liposomal anticancer product currently indicated as front-line chemotherapy for advanced HIV-associated Kaposi's sarcoma. Its active ingredient is the anthracycline daunorubicin, encased in a liposome. European Patent Disclosures