* Istotis BV, of Bilthoven, the Netherlands, has been awarded a US$4.8 million research grant by the European Union to develop a biomimetic substitute for human bone. The company won the grant in collaboration with six academic partners, and will coordinate the project. The aim is to develop living tissue-engineered materials that can replace load-bearing and non-load-bearing bones affected by disease, trauma and age. Isotis said the mechanical, chemical and biological properties of the material will be identical to human bone, thus overriding the shortcomings of current replacement materials, including donor and animal tissue.
* Leiden, Netherlands-based Pharming Group NV, which specializes in the production of human proteins from the milk of transgenic animals, has been awarded a US$1.1 million grant to support development of the human enzyme alpha-glucosidase for the treatment of Pompe's disease, a lysosomal storage disorder. The grant, from the Flanders Institute for the Promotion of Scientific and Technical Research, which promotes economic development in Flanders, was awarded as Pharming announced the formation of a joint venture with Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., to develop and commercialize alpha-glucosidase. The compound has been given orphan drug status by the FDA.
* Phytopharm plc, of Godmanchester, U.K., said its appetite suppressant drug P57 has begun Phase I clinical trials. P57, derived from an extract of a South African plant, was licensed from South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research last year. In August 1998, Phytopharm announced an exclusive worldwide agreement with New York-based Pfizer Inc. for the development and commercialization of the product.