* Agritope Inc., of Portland, Ore., began field trials of its genetically modified cantaloupe in California and Oregon. The melons are altered to slow the ripening process and extend their shelf-life. The trials are being conducted in collaboration with Harris Moran Seed Co., of Modesto, Calif.
* Alanex Corp., a subsidiary of La Jolla, Calif.-based Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc., entered a three-year agreement with Zeneca Ltd., of London, focused on development of agrochemicals. Alanex will provide Zeneca Agrochemicals with compound libraries to screen against Zeneca's assays. Financial details were not disclosed. Alanex will receive an up-front license fee, annual research support and milestone payments. Zeneca will have exclusive rights to lead compounds developed in the collaboration for agriculture, horticulture, forestry and animal health applications.
* Discovery Laboratories Inc., of New York, completed the acquisition of its majority-owned subsidiary, Acute Therapeutics Inc. (ATI), of Doylestown, Pa. ATI's management team, including CEO Robert Capetola, will assume control of Discovery, which will be headquartered in Doylestown. In the merger, ATI shareholders receive 3.9 Discovery shares for each ATI share. ATI's lead product, Surfaxin, is a peptide-containing lung surfactant designed to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome.
* Genta Inc., of San Diego, is initiating a Phase I/IIa study of G3139, an antisense compound, for treatment of Stage III and IV metastatic malignant melanoma in combination with the chemotherapeutic drug, dacarbazine. G3139 is designed to block production of the Bcl-2 protein, whose over expression by the bcl-2 gene is linked to cancer. The company said cancer cells that overproduce Bcl-2 also are resistant to chemotherapeutic agents. The clinical trial will be conducted at the University of Vienna.
* Lynx Therapeutics Inc., of Hayward, Calif., is setting up a new department in an effort to identify up to 100,000 polymorphisms — about one per gene — by early 1999. The effort will be based on a highly parallel process designed to enable both the simultaneous comparison of very large numbers of fragments from different genomes, and the retrieval of polymorphism-containing fragments, without having to do any sequencing, other than for validation.
* Vitagen Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., formerly named Hepatix Inc., received $3 million from its shareholders, which include Chase Capital Partners L.P., Alta Partners L.P., Woodlands Essex, Venture Medical Holdings and Paragon Ventures. The funding will support Vitagen's Phase II trials of its extracorporeal liver assist device, which is an artificial liver that incorporates "immortalized" human liver cells.