* Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New Haven, Conn., started dosing rheumatoid arthritis patients in a Phase I/II trial of 5G1.1, its anti-inflammatory complement inhibitor. The multi-center, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study will enroll 40 patients.
Cypros Pharmaceutical Corp., of Carlsbad, Calif., received word from the FDA that Ceresine, its drug for protection of brain tissue in acute head injuries, was granted expedited development status. Ceresine significantly reduces the amount of lactic acid build-up in head injury patients. Accumulation of lactic acid in ischemic or injured brain tissue leads to cell death.
* Anergen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., started Phase I enrollment for AnergiX, for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The trials involve patients with rheumatoid arthritis who take methotrexate. The endpoints will be the safety, tolerability and biological effects of AnergiX. The drug is being developed in collaboration with N.V. Organon, of Oss, Netherlands.
* Digital Gene Technologies Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., selected a project by Ryszard Przewlocki to be its fifth academic research collaboration. Przewlocki, head of the molecular neuropharmacology department at the Institute of Pharmacology, Polish Academy of Sciences, in Krakow, Poland, will use Digital Gene's TOGA (Total Gene Expression Analysis) technology to study the effect of morphine on brain gene expression and possibly identify "addiction genes."
* Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and Kissei Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Matsumoto City, Japan, selected VX-745 as their lead drug development candidate for inflammatory and neurological diseases. VX-745 targets the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, a human enzyme involved with the progression of inflammation. The selection of VX-745, now in preclinical development, triggered a $2 million milestone payment to Vertex from Kissei.
* Genome Therapeutics Corp., of Waltham, Mass. acquired an exclusive license from Princeton University, in New Jersey, to genes regulated by the p53 tumor suppressor gene. The agreement enables Genome Therapeutics to develop targets within the p53 signal pathway, which could lead to the development of gene therapies and cancer treatments. The p53 tumor suppressor gene is involved in the progression of tumor growth in cancer. Princeton University received an undisclosed license fee and will share in any product royalties.
* GenVec Inc., of Rockville, Md., and the Parke-Davis research division of the Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J., started a Phase I/II trial at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center for patients suffering from peripheral vascular disease (PVD). The trial will use gene therapy to trigger angiogenesis, the body's natural process of growing new blood vessels to improve blood flow. PVD, which affects about 1 million patients in the U.S., includes symptoms such as pain while walking.
* PathoGenesis Corp., of Seattle, received a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The grant will support research on developing inhibitors of factors that increase the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen that affects cystic fibrosis, burn and cancer patients. Virulence factors include toxins and tissue-destroying enzymes. PathoGenesis will focus on the virulence factors of the P. aeruginosa genome to develop more effective antibiotics to treat pseudomonal lung infections.