* Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp., of San Diego, received an arbitration demand regarding money former LiquiVent (perflubron) partner Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc. (HMR) claims Alliance owes. HMR terminated the license agreement in December 1997 and is now seeking up to $16.8 million, plus interest and punitive damages. Both companies issued statements on the matter, HMR alleging "misrepresentations" by Alliance, while Alliance called its former partner's claims "not meritorious."
* Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, is ending trials of the dry powder inhaler formulation of APC-366 for the treatment of asthma. Some Phase I study participants given the formulation exhibited signs of bronchospasm. Axys and partner Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany, are now focusing on preclinical development of a different tryptase inhibitor for use as an oral asthma treatment. "Clearly we see, as does Bayer, the advantage that an oral tryptase inhibitor would have in the market and accordingly have chosen to pursue an oral, rather than an inhaled product," said John Walker, Axys' chairman and CEO.
* Celgene Corp., of Warren, N.J., is seeking FDA approval of multiple myeloma as an indication for Thalomid (thalidomide), which won approval in July for erythema nodosum leprosum. In a recent study, thalidomide stopped progression of multiple myeloma in almost two-thirds of patients studied. Celgene recently filed an application for orphan drug status with the FDA for the indication.
* Gene Logic Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., completed its $39.1 million acquisition of Oncormed, also of Gaithersburg, following separate meetings at which each company's stockholders approved the deal. Gene Logic plans to write off much of the acquisition cost as acquired in-process research and development. (See BioWorld Today, July 8, 1998, p. 1.)
* Integrated Genomics Inc., of Chicago, inked a deal to provide Glaxo Wellcome plc, of London, with access to a database of enzymatic reactions and pathways, along with query software. The system, dubbed EMP, has more than 21,000 entries, plus a pathway module designed to facilitate the assembly of protein functions into "wiring diagrams" of cellular metabolism.
* Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Lexington, Mass., said a federal court has given preliminary approval to a $70 million liability settlement for claims related to the weight-loss drug Redux (dexfenfluramine), which the company's marketing partner, Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories, pulled from the market last year due to its association with heart-valve abnormalities. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania also conditionally certified a limited fund class action. A fairness hearing on the settlement has been scheduled for Feb. 25, 1999. Wyeth Ayerst is a King of Prussia, Pa.-based unit of American Home Products Corp. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 8, 1998, p. 1.)
* Megabios Corp., of Burlingame, Calif., licensed technology for making plasmid DNA and lipid-DNA complexes to DSM Biologics, of Groningen, the Netherlands, for use at a Montreal contract manufacturing facility. DSM will pay licensing and milestone fees, and the two companies will share profits generated by the sale of material produced using the Megabios process. The term of the exclusive partnership is for at least three years and will continue for as long as the venture is profitable. DSM may extend the license to include its Netherlands facility.
* NEN Life Science Products Inc., of Boston, signed an agreement to buy Advanced Bioconcept Ltd., a Montreal company founded in 1994 which offers a line of biologically active, fluorescence labeled peptides. These peptides — dubbed Fluo-peptides — have applications in cellular and receptor imaging, and could be used in high-throughput screening for drug discovery. Advanced Bioconcept will spin off its prion program to existing shareholders in the form of a new company called Caprion Pharmaceuticals Inc. NEN will run Advanced Bioconcept Co. as a wholly owned subsidiary.
* NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Salt Lake City, launched Phase I trials in the United Kingdom of a lead compound for epilepsy, NPS 1776, an orally active, small-molecule drug that has demonstrated significant anticonvulsant properties in preclinical studies. The company reports that there is a wide margin between seizure-controlling doses and those that produce side effects.
* Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Richmond, Calif., is launching a Phase I/II study of lead anticancer agent Onyx-15 in patients with pancreatic cancer. The trial is designed to measure the safety, maximally tolerated dose and efficacy of the drug when administered intratumorally using endoscopic ultrasound, both as a single agent and in combination with intravenous gemcitabine, the standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Onyx-015, is a genetically engineered adenovirus that has been shown to replicate in and kill tumor cells deficient in p53 tumor-suppressor gene activity.