* Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, and Roche Bioscience, of Palo Alto, Calif., formed an alliance in which Axys will use its functional genomics capabilities to evaluate genes provided by Roche that may serve as drug targets in the development of therapies for pain and other conditions involving the peripheral nervous system. Roche, a member of Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Holding Ltd., will pay an up-front fee and provide research funding to Axys.
* Biopool International Inc., of Ventura, Calif., said it will repurchase up to 400,000 shares of its common stock, in response to continued weakness of the company's share price.
* Corvas International Inc., of San Diego, said its partner, Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., has started a Phase I trial of an oral antithrombotic drug candidate discovered by Corvas. The event triggers a $1 million milestone, due under the parties' agreement to develop and commercialize orally active inhibitors of thrombin.
* Genelabs Technologies Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., said it received $4.3 million from the sale of some of its shares in its Taiwan affiliate, Genelabs Biotechnology Co. Ltd. The sale was made to a single investor, Long Bon Development, of Taiwan.
* Gryphon Sciences Inc., of South San Francisco, said its technology revealed the first crystal structure of the protein SDF-1 alpha, the unique ligand for the HIV-1 co-receptor in human T cells. The structure was solved at Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn. Gryphon's chemical protein synthesis technology produces proteins directly from genome data for use in drug discovery.
* Maxim Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, said its feasibility study of Maxamine showed the product is safe in combination with interferon-alpha in the treatment of hepatitis C and may enhance the efficacy of interferon-alpha in patients previously resistant to that therapy. Maxamine is a histamine type-2 receptor agonist based on the body's natural histamine molecule. It inhibits the production and release of free oxygen radicals.
* NeoPharm Inc., of Bannockburn, Ill., said a Phase I trial with its liposome encapsulated doxorubicin showed encouraging clinical activity in patients with late-stage, hormone-resistant prostate cancer. The drug may have a positive effect against the disease, and side effects were characterized as quite tolerable, which could improve quality of life. Phase II trials are expected to begin shortly.
* NexStar Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Boulder, Colo., said the French Ministry of Health approved AmBisome, a liposomal formulation of amphotericin B, for treating patients with systemic fungal (aspergillus or candida) infections who failed or are intolerant to conventional amphotericin B. The drug also was approved for therapy of visceral leishmaniasis, after failure of conventional treatment.
* Prizm Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, spun out a new company, Ciblex Corp., funded by a syndicate of venture capital investors. The new company focuses on identifying and developing drugs that block the export of certain disease-associated proteins out of cells without affecting normal protein secretion. The drugs are called Exhibins. Last month, Prizm said it was merging with Matrigen Inc. to form Selective Genetics Inc. (See BioWorld Today, May 7, 1998, p. 1.)
* Protein Design Labs Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., began a Phase IIa clinical trial in Europe with Ostavir, a human anti-hepatitis B antibody, in patients with chronic hepatitis B. The purpose is to evaluate safety, pharmacokinetics and activity. Ostavir is believed to block the hepatitis B virus from entering cells, and when used in conjunction with nucleoside analogs such as lamivudine may reduce intracellular viral replication and protect uninfected cells.
* Quintiles Transnational Corp., of Research Triangle Park, N.C., opened offices in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Budapest, Hungary. Quintiles also is managing clinical trials in Austria, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.