* Chiroscience Group plc, of Cambridge, U.K., submitted a new drug application to the FDA for Chirocaine (levobupivacaine), a local anesthetic for surgical procedures, as well as pain relief during childbirth and following surgery. It is derived from the established anesthetic bupivacaine. The company licensed worldwide marketing rights to the drug to Zeneca Group plc, of London, in a deal worth $25 million. (See BioWorld Today, April 1, 1998, p. 1.)* Gensia Sicor Inc., of Irvine, Calif., completed its oncology product manufacturing facility where Gensia Sicor Pharmaceuticals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gensia Sicor, will produce injectable oncology products.

* Genvec Inc., of Rockville, Md., licensed rights for all gene therapy applications of the tumor necrosis factor alpha gene in the U.S. from Asahi Chemical Industry Co. Ltd., of Tokyo. The naturally occurring secreted protein has shown clinical antitumor activity. Used with radiation treatment, it disrupts blood vessels, resulting in rapid necrosis of the tumor.

* Hoechst AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, opened a $45 million drug innovation facility for its pharmaceutical division, Hoechst Marion Roussel, in Bridgewater, N.J. The 150,000-square-foot-building will house 200 researchers dedicated to lead generation, especially in the central nervous system, oncology and respiratory disease groups.

* Inspire Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Durham, N.C., said results from a Phase I/II trial of INS316 (uridine 5'-triphosphate UTP), the company's lead product, showed the expectorant cleared airways of smokers and patients with chronic bronchitis. The drug works by activating the P2Y2 receptor, which regulates the process of mucociliary clearance. Previous work has shown inhalation of the drug enhances mucociliary clearance in healthy subjects.

* Matrix Pharmaceutical Inc., of Fremont, Calif., said direct injections of a IntraDose, a biodegradable gel containing cisplatin/epinephrine, into solid tumors shrank half of the treated tumors by at least half. Tests showed encouraging results in the local control of tumors, particularly the head and neck, which are difficult to treat. The drug is in Phase III trials in the U.S. and Europe.

* NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Salt Lake City, said NPS 1506 protected brain cells in animals that suffered strokes. The company also said the compund was safe and well tolerated in the first human volunteers who received it. NPS 1506's function is to protect brain cells following a stroke so that neurological capacity in survivors can be preserved. NPS intends, by the end of the second quarter of 1998, to test the drug on humans who recently suffered a stoke. Plans also call for the company to meet with the FDA this fall, which may lead to the filing of an application for accelerated review and marketing approval. The drug is a small molecule that is believed to bind to N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA) receptors on neurons and protect them from the influx of destructive calcium to the brain.

* Orchid Biocomputer Inc., of Princeton, N.J., formed an exclusive licensing agreement with Dynal AS, of Oslo, Norway, under which exclusive rights to use Dynal's magnetizable bead technologies have been licenses to Orchid for uses in its microstructures. Dynal also now has an undisclosed equity position in Orchid.

* Osiris Therapeutics Inc., of Baltimore, launched its new commercial functional genomics program, StemScreen, for diseases affecting the structural and connective tissues of the body. StemScreen is the first gene and drug discovery technology based on the use of normal human mesenchymal stem cells, the progenitor cells responsible for the formation of structural and connective tissues. StemScreen assays identify molecules that regulate tissue development and determine their function in forming normal tissue.

* Pangea Systems Inc., of Oakland, Calif., completed its collaboration with Roche Bioscience, of Palo Alto, Calif., a member of the Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Group. The partnership was for the design of expression chips from expressed sequenced tagged databases. The system uses tools that will be available in Pangea's GeneWorld bioinformatics system.

* Protein Polymer Technologies Inc., of San Diego, raised about $3.9 million from accredited and institutional investors via a private placement of convertible preferred stock and warrants. Protein Polymer's preferred stock was priced at $100 per share and 39,213 shares were sold in the closing. Each share can be converted into common stock at $1.25 per share.

* Techniclone Corp., of Tustin, Calif., approved an amendment to the firm's certificate of incorporation that increased the number of authorized common shares to 120 million at a special stockholders meeting. Also at the meeting, company executives said patient screening for the Oncolym Phase II/III trials started this month at several locations. Treatment of patients will begin during the next several weeks. Oncolym is a radiolabeled murine monoclonal antibody that may be used to treat intermediate- and high-grade relapsed or refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

* Therapeutic Antibodies Inc., of Nashville, Tenn., submitted a product license application and an establishment license application to the FDA for its CroTAb antivenom product. The FDA had already granted it an orphan drug designation. CroTAb is a polyclonal antibody designed to neutralize the poisonous effects of bites from North American pit vipers (crotalids), a family of rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. In clinical studies, CroTAb has shown to be five times more potent than any antivenom currently on the market.

* Variagenics Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, in Rochester, Minn., signed an agreement giving Variagenics exclusive rights to the Thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) gene for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Persons with a mutant form of the TPMT gene (about 6 percent of the population) may suffer life-threatening toxic reactions if treated with certain immunosuppressive drugs often given to people suffering from cancer, transplant rejection and rheumatoid arthritis. Diagnostic testing for TPMT mutations may identify those who can take the drug safely and represent a prototype for the clinical application of pharmacogenomics.

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