* Aclara BioSciences Inc., of Hayward, Calif., won an Advanced Technology Program Grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to accelerate development of LabCards, microfluidic chips with integrated DNA sample preparation capabilities. Designed to reduce the amount of labor and reagents required for genetic analysis, LabCards use electric fields to control the movement of samples and reagents through interconnected microcapillaries and microreactors.
* Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to support development of a software system and a proprietary database of protein families for high-throughput prediction of protein function. The database, dubbed ProteomeBank, will allow researchers to identify common sequence patterns between a newly identified protein and better-studied relatives from the same or other species.
* Cell Pathways Inc., of Horsham, Pa., completed enrollment in a pivotal Phase II/III prostate cancer trial of lead product Prevatac (exisulind). The double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 90 patients whose prostate specific antigen levels were rising following radical prostatectomy, indicating heightened risk of metastatic disease. If the drug succeeds in slowing or halting the spread of prostate cancer, the need for hormonal treatments will be delayed or eliminated. "This would potentially allow these men to retain their post-surgical sexual function and lead relatively normal lives while controlling their disease," said Rifat Pamukcu, chief scientific officer and senior vice president of research and development. The company expects to report interim trial results covering the first six months of patient observations during first half of 1999.
* Dow AgroSciences LLC, of Indianapolis, and Rhone-Poulenc Agro, of Paris, signed a letter of intent to conduct research in the field of plant biotechnology to develop genetically modified plants and seed products containing multiple traits. The collaboration will focus initially on six crops: corn, canola, soybeans, sunflower, sugar cane and cotton. The alliance supplements a collaboration proposed in July between Rhone-Poulenc and Mycogen Corp., now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow. Rhone-Poulenc Agro is the crop protection subsidiary of Paris-based Rhone-Poulenc Group.
* Dyax Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., received a second Advanced Technology Program grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to fund research on industrial-enzyme design. The $1.7 million grant will support development of an advanced form of phage display technology to be used for rapid production of industrial enzymes with improved catalytic activity and substrate specificity.
* Genset, of Paris, signed a two-year pharmacogenomics agreement with Pharmacia & Upjohn (P&U), of Bridgewater, N.J. The companies will use Genset's technology to discover markers and genes involved in response to an undisclosed P&U compound, a process that could help identify patients most likely to be responsive to the therapy.
* Gliatech Inc., of Cleveland, won the FDA's approval of an Investigational Device Exemption to begin a pivotal clinical study of Adcon-P Adhesion Control Barrier Solution. In a pilot study of 37 patients, the product was as safe as or comparable to a control solution, and was effective in reducing adhesions. Adcon-P is a resorbable, carbohydrate polymer solution designed to inhibit scarring and adhesions following peritoneal cavity surgery.
* Igen International Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., has secured a sixth buyer for the still-under-development Origen High Throughput Drug Discovery System. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, will receive a pre-production version of the system, which is based on electrochemiluminescence.
* InKine Pharmaceutical Co., of Blue Bell, Pa., shared Phase IIb data with the FDA and is now readying for pivotal Phase III clinical trials of INKP-100, a colonic purgative product. The pivotal studies will compare INKP-100 tablets against an ethical polyethylene glycol liquid purgative product. Two multicenter trials of 400 patients each will be conducted simultaneously. Enrollment could be completed as early as the end of 1998, the company said, though the protocol's details have not yet been finalized.
* PE Biosystems, of Foster City, Calif., and Biometric Imaging Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., launched a technology access program for the FMAT System, a platform for homogenous live-cell and bead-based high-throughput screening assays. Applications include assays for receptor binding, cell surface expression of various proteins, soluble factors, gene expression, cell function, apoptosis and cytotoxicity. PE Biosystems is a division of Norwalk, Conn.-based Perkin-Elmer Corp.
* Pharmos Corp., of Seattle, reported success in a Phase II trial of dexanabinol in severe head trauma patients. The drug produced a 26 percent reduction in mortality and significantly reduced intracranial pressure. Treated patients were also more likely to be able to resume a normal life as measured by the Glasgow Outcome Scale. According to the company, no drug is currently approved to treat severe head trauma, the leading cause of death among children and adults in the U.S. "These study results are promising and open the door to a Phase III study in the U.S. and Europe next year," said Haim Aviv, Pharmos' chairman and CEO. Dexanabinol is a non-psychotropic synthetic analogue of marijuana.
* RiboGene Inc., of Hayward, Calif., closed on a $2 million financing with Finova Capital Corp., of Phoenix. The funding is in the form of secured equipment loans and will be used to boost lead optimization and high-throughput screening capabilities, and to support needs stemming from staff growth.