* Aastrom Biosciences Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., is cutting 19 staff positions in research and development and associated support areas, in addition to eliminating some contract positions. The company had employed 87. Aastrom said the reorganization "is designed to focus the company's resources on the pending European launch of the AastromReplicell Cell Production System and on initiation of U.S. pivotal clinical trials." The company expects the layoffs to slash operating expenses by about 15 percent.
* Inhale Therapeutic Systems Inc., of San Carlos, Calif., said Pfizer Inc., of New York, and Hoechst Marion Roussel AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, entered into worldwide agreements to manufacture insulin, and co-develop and co-promote inhaled insulin, which is based on Inhale's pulmonary delivery system, currently in Phase IIb testing. Under the terms, Pfizer and Hoechst said they will construct a jointly owned manufacturing plant in Frankfurt.
* The Liposome Company Inc., of Princeton, N.J., received approval to market Abelcet (amphotericin B lipid complex injection) in Singapore for the treatment of invasive fungal infections in patients who are refractory to or intolerant of conventional amphotericin B therapy.
* NeoRx Corp., of Seattle, agreed to convey an exclusive license to Angiotech Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, for U.S. patents covering the use of paclitaxel and related compounds for treatment of vascular diseases. Angiotech will pay $1 million up front (half in cash, half in equity) and will issue warrants for the purchase of 230,000 Angiotech shares priced at fair market value. Warrants for 30,000 shares are refundable if Angiotech meets predetermined milestones. The deal includes milestone-related cash payments and lump-sum payments related to sales goals.
* NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Salt Lake City, Utah, reported that SmithKline Beecham plc, of London, purchased 204,000 shares of its stock at a price of $8.869 per share, or $1.8 million. The additional shares were purchased under the terms of an existing research and license agreement that funds research on therapies for osteoporosis.
* Pfizer Inc., of New York, successfully completed Phase I clinical trials of the anticancer agent CP-358,774 and is initiating multicenter Phase II trials. The product is an orally active small-molecule inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase and was developed by OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Uniondale, N.Y. The companies' collaboration has produced a second compound, CP-564,959, which inhibits a key protein tyrosine kinase receptor involved in blood vessel growth.
* Planet Biotechnology Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., started a Phase I/II trial of CaroRx, a SigA monoclonal antibody produced in genetically transformed plants. CaroRx is designed to prevent infection by specific oral bacteria, identified as the chief cause of tooth decay. CaroRx is one of a class of antibodies called secretory immunoglobulin As (SigAs). These are the antibodies naturally produced to protect oral and other mucosal surfaces against infectious organisms and toxins.
* Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Boulder, Colo., started its first clinical trial of Angiozyme, an anticancer compound. The investigational new drug application (IND) was filed Sept. 21. A Phase I study will define the safety and tolerability of single doses of Angiozyme in healthy volunteers and will also define the pharmacokinetics of Angiozyme to determine how frequently dosing should occur in subsequent studies with cancer patients. Angiozyme is a synthetic ribozyme that specifically inhibits synthesis of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, a key component in the angiogenesis-blood growth pathway.