* Abgenix Inc., of Fremont, Calif., and Millennium BioTherapeutics Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., signed an exclusive agreement to utilize Abgenix's XenoMouse technology to develop a fully human antibody drug against an inflammatory disease target discovered by Millennium BioTherapeutics. Financial terms were not disclosed. Millennium BioTherapeutics is a subsidiary of Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, and Abgenix is a subsidiary of Cell Genesys Inc., of Foster City, Calif.

* Aurora Biosciences Corp., of San Diego, completed the design and delivery of three screening subsystems to Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., as part of a technology package from a December 1997 collaborative research and license agreement worth as much as $100 million to Aurora. Under the deal, Merck committed more than $33 million in research funding, license fees and delivery payments. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 19, 1997, p. 1.)

* AVI Biopharma Inc., of Corvalis, Ore., and ImmunoTherapy Corp. of Portland, Ore., will conduct a Phase II study of Avicine for treatment of prostate cancer. The trial will study the effects of the vaccine on prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. Twenty-four prostate patients will be evaluated for quality-of-life benefits, tumor suppression and PSA levels. Avicine is a synthetic peptide conjugate vaccine designed to turn the immune system against cancer cells that carry the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which is common to many tumor types. AVI, formerly AntiVirals Inc., and ImmunoTherapy are awaiting shareholder approval of their merger, proposed in November 1997.

* Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, and Signal Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, signed a deal for the accelerated discovery of compounds that interact with specific cell signaling pathways. Signal will use its assays for the signaling pathways to screen small molecules derived from Axys' compound libraries. Axys will receive up-front and milestone payments. Specific molecular targets and financial terms were not disclosed.

* Celtrix Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., started a Phase II study of SomatoKine, an IGF-BP3 complex, in patients with Type I diabetes. The trial will assess SomatoKine's ability to lower the requirement for injected insulin. SomotoKine is the recombinant form of the natural complex formed by the hormone insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and its regulatory binding protein (BP3).

* Genta Inc., of San Diego, started a Phase I/IIa study of its lead antisense compound, G3139, at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, also in San Diego. The study will examine the safety and efficacy of G3139 in the treatment of hormone-resistant, metastatic prostate cancer when administered over a significantly longer duration than previously studied and in combination with an androgen-receptor blocking agent. G3139 is a synthetic, DNA-like molecule designed to bind specifically to a small segment of the messenger RNA, which produces the harmful Bcl-2 protein. G3139 destroys the messenger RNA, which prevents the production of the Bcl-2 protein.

* Immunomedics Inc., of Morris Plains, N.J., reported a challenge made in the Netherlands against its European patent was dismissed by the District Court in The Hague. The patent covers a class of CEA-specific antibodies and other related subject matter. CEA stands for carcinoembryonic antigen. The court upheld all Immunomedics patent claims. In addition, Immunomedics gave a royalty-bearing, non-exclusive license to Dako A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, for patents covering specific antibodies to CEA. Terms were not disclosed.

* Incyte Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., expanded its relationship with Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland, to include access to Incyte's gene expression microarray technology. The four-year deal provides Novartis with data from prefabricated DNA microarrays and from custom microarrays in exchange for access fees and per-experiment fees. Financial terms were not disclosed.

* Medical Science Systems Inc., of San Antonio, Texas, entered into a research agreement with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to conduct additional clinical trials of its genetic susceptibility test for coronary heart disease. This study will involve one of the risk factors for atherosclerosis. Previous trials indicated the company's genetic test is an independent predictor of susceptibility to atherosclerosis of coronary arteries.

* PathoGenesis Corp., of Seattle, completed enrollment in a 28-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized Phase II trial of TOBI (tobramycin solution for inhalation) in patients with bronchiectasis, a form of severe chronic bronchitis. The principal endpoint is microbiological response, as measured by changes in observed bacterial levels in the phlegm. TOBI already is on the market for lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

* Sugen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., started a Phase II trial with SU101 in ovarian cancer. The multicenter trial will enroll 30 patients with recurrent ovarian cancer who have failed standard therapy. Primary objectives are to assess the efficacy of SU101 on objective response and stabilization of the disease; secondary objectives are assessment of time-to-disease progression, effect on CA 125 levels (an ovarian cancer tumor marker) and safety. SU101 is a small molecule inhibitor that blocks the signaling of the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor, which is believed to be the driving oncogene in subsets of ovarian tumors.

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