* CombiChem Inc., of San Diego and ICOS Corp., of Bothell, Wash., signed a drug discovery and development deal focusing on an undisclosed target. As part of the pact, CombiChem receives an upfront payment, research support, and milestone and royalty payments for any resulting products. ICOS gets exclusive global rights to develop and market any resulting products.

* Desmos Inc., of San Diego, has finished construction of its pilot plant manufacturing facility, which allows Desmos to enter clinical development and retain control of its manufacturing operations. Financing was obtained through a lease line funding from Transamerica Corp., of San Francisco, along with equity investment raised through venture capital in September 1997. Desmos is developing applications of its technology for periodontal disease, diabetes therapy and biocoating, including producing clinical grade laminin-5 for periodontal clinical trials set for this year.

* Gilead Sciences Inc., of Foster City, Calif., broadened the entry criteria of its expanded access program for Preveon (adefovir dipivoxil) for the treatment of HIV for AIDS patients who have failed their existing regimens. The program is part of the FDA's effort to make new drugs available for patients with serious or life-threatening diseases who have limited treatment options. Preveon is an investigational reverse transcriptase inhibitor and is in late stage clinical trials.

* Interferon Sciences Inc., of New Brunswick, N.J., was advised by the FDA that the company's Alferon N Injection, which is on the market for genital warts, was not approvable for HIV based on a single Phase III trial. The agency said the results were insufficient and an additional study would be required. Interferon also noted an interim analysis of a Phase III of Alferon N (natural-source multispecies alpha interferon) for hepatitis C showed the drug did not achieve statistical significance for that indication and FDA approval would be sought. As a consequence of the HIV and hepatitis C study results, the company said it likely will undergo "a major restructuring."

* LeukoSite Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and Ilex Oncology Inc., of San Antonio, Texas, began a pivotal Phase III trial of Campath-111 for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The two companies expect to use the data to file a biologics license application in 1999. Campath-111, also know as LDP-03, is one of three monoclonal antibodies LeukoSite licensed from London-based Glaxo Wellcome plc.

* LXR Biotechnology Inc., of Richmond, Calif., said a preclinical study of LXR015-2, also called Elirex, demonstrated the drug could protect the heart from damage associated with ischemia and reperfusion. LXR015-2 is described as an apoptosis supressor drug.

* OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Uniondale, N.Y., and Hoechst Marion Roussel AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, agreed to extend by six months a 15-month option period due to "intriguing preclinical data" on research to develop small molecule inducers of erythropoietin gene expression. The two companies, which started their collaboration in January 1997, are developing the oral compounds for the treatment of anemia due to renal failure and anemia associated with chemotherapy for AIDS and cancer.

* Targeted Genetics Corp., of Seattle, Wash., and Copernicus Gene Systems Inc., of Cleveland, Ohio, entered a research collaboration to develop improved nonviral gene therapy vectors. Together, the companies will evaluate the efficiency of gene transfer using plasmid DNAs compacted by Copernicus' methods and encapsulated within Targeted's lipid formulations, known as LPD vectors. Financial terms were not revealed.

* The Liposome Co. Inc., of Princeton, N.J., inked an agreement with Wyeth-Ayerst International Inc., a division of American Home Products Corp., of Madison, N.J. to market Abelcet, Liposome's antifungal drug, in Austria. Abelcet is a lipid formulation of amphotericin B, which is used to treat severe, systemic fungal infections such as candidiasis, aspergillosis and cryptococcal meningitis.

* Vion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New Haven, Conn., received two Small Business Innovation Research grants totaling $850,000 from the National Institutes of Health for development of two investigational anticancer therapies. A $100,000 award aims to help Vion reduce the toxicity of its tumor-targeted Salmonella bacteria while still allowing the bacteria to be effective against tumors. The second grant, which spans a two-year period, is for water-soluble prodrug versions of triapine, a ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor that has shown superior antitumor activity in preclinical studies. Triapine may be used for treatment in solid tumors such as lung, breast, colorectal cancer and melanoma.

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