* Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., started a Phase II trial of the oral anti-angiogenesis drug AG3340 in patients over 50 with the neovascular form of age-related macular degeneration. The 100-patient study is designed to assess safety, find the optimal dose and regimen to use in Phase III testing, and evalute the effects of the drug on visual function and on neovascular lesions over time. An inhibitor of matrix metalloproteases, AG3340 is also undergoing Phase II/III cancer trials in combination with chemotherapy. (See BioWorld Today, May 6, 1998, p. 1.)
* Bayer Corp., of Pittsburgh, is relocating the headquarters of its Bayer Biological Products (BBP) unit from West Haven, Conn., to Research Triangle Park, N.C. The biologicals unit is purchasing a 47,000-square-foot building and leasing additional space nearby, and will relocate about 80 positions. More than half of BBP's U.S. workforce — some 1,300 jobs — is already based in North Carolina, at a manufacturing plant in Clayton and a testing facility in Raleigh. The headquarters move will be completed in 1999.
* Cangene Corp., of Toronto, inked a five-year deal with CSL Ltd. for Australian distrubition of Cangene's WinRho SDF hyperimmune product. CSL will distribute WinRho SDF for treating hemolytic disease in newborns upon regulatory approval, expected within a year. CSL, based in Victoria, Australia, manufactues a similar product but cannot meet demand.
* Ekos Corp., of Bothell, Wash., won three grants from the National Institutes of Health to help fund preclinical research and preparation for clinical trials of the firm's ultrasound-enhanced drug delivery technology. The grants are from the Small Business Innovation Research and the Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Two of the grants go toward study of ultrasound as an enhancer of clot-dissolving drugs. The third grant will help Ekos study the feasibility of using the technology to deliver drugs into blood vessel walls.
* Igen International Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., lined up a second food products testing laboratory to evaluate an Escherichia coli test. Developed in conjunction with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, the test will be used on meat products at Warren Analytical Services, of Greeley, Colo. Preliminary data from field evaluations has demonstrated the test is up to 1,000 times more sensitive than available methods, while offering same-day results.
* MedImmune Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., will use Chiron Corp.'s MF59 adjuvant for two vaccine development programs, for parvovirus B19 and Escherichia coli. MedImmune will pay Emeryville, Calif.-based Chiron an up-front payment, milestones, and royalties should a product reach the market. The parvovirus B19 vaccine has completed a Phase I trial, while the E. coli vaccine candidate for urinary tract infections is expected to enter the clinic in 1999. Chiron uses MF59 as an adjuvant in FLUAD, which earned marketing approval in Italy last year.
* Molecular Dynamics Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Clontech Laboratories Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., signed an agreement to jointly develop and market microscope slides that are pre-arrayed with up to 10,000 spots of cloned DNA material. The microarrays are designed to help scientists measure differential gene expression levels quickly and accurately in high-throughput research and development environments.
* Mycogen Corp., of San Diego, expects to complete acquisitions of two Brazilian seed companies — FT Biogenetica de Milho Ltda. and Hibridos Colorado Ltda. — within the next 30 to 60 days. The companies develop and market seed products for corn and sorghum. Through these deals, along with the April purchase of Dinamilho Carol Productos Agricolas Ltda., Mycogen said it is aiming to become "a significant player in the high-tech segment of the Brazilian seed corn market." Brazil is the world's third-largest corn producer, according to Mycogen, but high-yielding hybrids are planted on only about half of the country's cornfields, while 90 percent of U.S. corn acres are so seeded.
* Pacific Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, initiated a Phase I clinical trial of the chemosensitizing agent 06 Benzyl Guanine in patients with brain tumors. The Duke University Medical Center will conduct the study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute under a Cooperative Research and Development agreement The trial aims to determine the optimal dose of BCNU, a commonly used alkylating agent used to treat brain cancer, in combination with 06 Benzyl Guanine, in patients with recurrent, persistent or progressive cerebral anaplastic glioma. Six patients have been enrolled thus far.
* Matrix Pharmaceutical Inc., of Fremont, Calif., has completed enrollment in both U.S. and European clinical trials of IntraDose (cisplatin/epinephrine) Injectable Gel for the treatment of solid tumors and will present safety and efficacy data at several medical meetings this fall. The trials are companion studies to registration-directed Phase III trials of IntraDose in patients with advanced head and neck cancer. Those studies are expected to complete enrollment next year.
* Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland, is consolidating operations of its U.S. cell and gene therapy subsidiaries, SyStemix Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., and Genetic Therapy Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md. SyStemix President and CEO Michael Perry will head the enterprise. Both facilities will continue to operate, but 90 jobs will be cut — one-fifth of the companies' combined workforce — in the areas of administration, development and operations. Research, however, "will be maintained at full strength at each site," Novartis said.
* Pangea Systems Inc., of Oakland, Calif., released the GeneMill 1.5, a new version of the company's software for DNA sequencing product management and data collection. Pangea will demonstrate the software at the 10th International Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference, which runs Thursday through Sunday in Miami.
* Techniclone Corp., of Tustin, Calif., submitted to the FDA a Phase II trial protocol for Tumor Necrosis Therapy (TNT), a radioactive chimeric monoclonal antibody for the treatment of malignant glioma. The multi-center study will incorporate the interstitial delivery system pioneered by the National Institutes of Health, utilizing the intra-tumoral catheter to deliver therapeutic agents to large regions of the brain. Centers will include the Medical University of South Carolina, which conducted the Phase I trial, and the company is also "in advanced discussions" with the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.