* AVI Biopharma Inc., of Portland, Ore., has completed the $24 million acquisition of ImmunoTherapy Corp., also of Portland. Two ImmunoTherapy executives, Jeffrey Lillard and Bruce Carter, joined the AVI board of directors, and AVI President and CEO Denis Burger was named chairman. AntiVirals Inc., now AVI Biopharma, proposed the buyout nearly a year ago. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 7, 1997, p. 1.)
* La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co., of San Diego, has discovered a molecular site targeted by antiphospholipid antibodies. Some 500,000 Americans and Europeans have elevated levels of these antibodies, which are strongly associated with stroke, heart attack and other thrombotic conditions. The antibodies, according to LaJolla, occur in about 10 percent of all stroke and heart attack patients and approximately 30 percent of all deep vein thrombosis and recurrent fetal loss patients. La Jolla is aiming to develop a new drug based on its discovery.
* The Immune Response Corp., of Carlsbad, Calif., reported the first patient has been treated in a Phase Ib colon cancer trial of a cancer vaccine consisting of three colon tumor cell lines and a proprietary fibroblast cell line that secrets interleukin-2. The trial will enroll up to 12 patients with recurrent refractory colon cancer in order to evaluate safety and measure the immune response generated by multiple treatments.
* Xenogen Corp., of Alameda, Calif., will provide F. Hoffmann La-Roche Ltd. with biphotonic imaging technology and up to four strains of bacteria genetically engineered with reporter genes that code for light-emitting proteins. The deal is in the form of an evaluation licensing agreement, whose terms were undisclosed. Hoffmann La-Roche's pharmaceutical division will use the technology in preclinical drug development. The division is based in Basel, Switzerland.
* Xoma Corp., of Berkeley, Calif., has enrolled more than 250 patients in a Phase III meningococcemia study of lead drug Neuprex and expects to complete enrollment by the end of the year. The drug is an injectable systemic formulation of rBPI21, a genetically engineered protein fragment derived from bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein. Neuprex is also undergoing a Phase III trial as a preventative of infectious pulmonary complications, such as pneumonia, in trauma patients who sustain severe blood loss. Xoma reports enrollment of more than 300 patients out of a planned total of 1,650.
* Zeneca Inc., of Wilmington, Del., is committing $82.5 million to a 10-year wheat genomics program with the John Innes Centre and Sainsbury Laboratory, of Norwich, U.K. The deal calls for construction of a new laboratory at John Innes — the first private investment in cereals at the center. About 30 Zeneca scientists will work there, using genomic information to improve quality, yield and disease resistance of wheat.