* Amersham Pharmacia Biotech Ltd. (APB), of Uppsala, Sweden, launched ALFexpressII, an upgraded version of the ALFexpress gel-based automated DNA analysis system. The second-generation product is a DNA analysis system for general sequencing, mutation analysis (by sequencing and fragment analysis) and genotyping.
* Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said a study of its Argent technology for delivery of the human growth hormone gene to mice demonstrated the treatment caused the mice to produce the hormone in a dose-dependent manner. Argent brings together, or dimerizes, intracellular signaling proteins, thereby activating a specific cellular response.
* Avigen Inc., of Alameda, Calif., and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, have developed a gene therapy approach to treating hemophilia B. The therapy uses a single intramuscular administration of an adeno-associated virus vector containing the gene for coagulation factor IX. Data from a study using a canine hemophilia model showed a single intramuscular administration resulted in long-term production of factor IX in a dose-related manner, with plasma levels of factor IX increasing for approximately nine months. An initial human clinical trial could begin as early as the end of this year.
* Biomatrix Inc., of Ridgefield, N.J., completed a $15 million debt financing and received a letter of clearance from the New York Stock Exchange to list its common stock on the exchange. Upon formal filing and acceptance of the application, Biomatrix's common stock is expected to begin trading on the NYSE this summer under the symbol BXM. Until then, Biomatrix shares will continue trading on the Nasdaq National Market under the BIOX symbol. The financing consists of subordinated convertible debt issued to an undisclosed investor. The debt has a five-year term and a coupon rate of 6.9 percent, and may be converted into common shares at $40 per share after one year.
* Introgen Therapeutics Inc., of Austin, Texas, presented positive data from Phase I clinical trials of INGN 201, an adenoviral-p53 gene therapy for cancer. Data from patients with advanced head and neck cancer showed the product was safe and viable. Introgen and partner RPR Gencell have launched Phase II trials in both indications. RPR Gencell is the gene therapy division of Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc., of Collegeville, Pa.
Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, exercised an option to make a one-time payment of $4.1 million to The Salk Institute for the patent rights license to Panretin gel for the treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma. Ligand has submitted a new drug application to the FDA for the product, whose active ingredient is 9-cis retinoic acid, a non-peptide hormone isolated and characterized by Ligand researchers, along with scientists at The Salk Institute, also of San Diego, and the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston.
* Procept Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said its shares will temporarily trade on the Nasdaq SmallCap Market under the symbol PTCCD due to the one-for-10 reverse stock split effective June 1. If a Nasdaq review confirms the company has complied with terms of an exception granted for listing, the symbol will return to the original PRCT.
* Sibia Neurosciences Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., presented data on compounds that reduced the formation of amyloid-beta protein in animal models of Alzheimer's disease. The compounds — discovered in collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York — reduced the formation of amyloid-beta in the brains of living animals in a dose-dependent fashion by at least 70 percent.
* Sugen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., has discovered an oncogene — dubbed Aurora2 — that is overexpressed in more than 50 percent of primary colorectal cancers. The Aurora2 gene is expressed at low levels in most normal tissue, but was overexpressed in 96 percent of human tumor cell lines examined.
* Targeted Genetics Corp., of Seattle, released additional Phase I trial data for its E1A gene therapy. The new data from three patients confirm previous results showing the tumor inhibitor gene E1A down-regulates the HER-2/neu oncogene in patients with breast and ovarian cancer. Preliminary data also indicate an increase in apoptotic cells in patient samples analyzed.
* Techniclone Corp., of Tustin, Calif., said it did not exercise a now-expired right to borrow up to $2 million under a line-of-credit agreement with a shareholder's affiliate. Techniclone "continues to pursue and evaluate a variety of financing alternatives to meet the company's long-term financing needs," said Elizabeth Gorbett-Frost, chief financial officer.
* Trinity Biotech plc, of Dublin, Ireland, received FDA marketing clearance for two markers to detect the presence of Epstein Barr Virus. The enzyme immunoassay tests join the company's lineup of more than 80 FDA-approved test kits.