* Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., said the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare has approved Viracept, the company's HIV protease inhibitor tablet. The commercial launch of Viracept, by Japan Tobacco Inc., of Osaka, Japan, is expected later this month. The companies collaborated on developing the product, which was approved by the FDA last year. (See BioWorld Today, March 17, 1997, p. 1.)
* Allelix Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (BPI), of Mississauga, Ontario, and Biomedical Photometrics Inc., of Waterloo, Ontario, signed a research agreement giving Allelix early access to BPI's patented GENEscope technology for reading genetic microarrays. Allelix will evaluate a pre-production version of the instrument to help accelerate its existing drug discovery programs, and will provide funding. The collaboration will allow BPI to shorten the commercialization period for GENEscope and refine the technology.
* Antigenics LLC, of New York, opened a research and development facility in Lexington, Mass., to which all pilot manufacturing for clinical programs will be transferred during the next nine months. Antigenics' most advanced product is an autologous cancer immunotherapeutic agent, HSPPC-96, in a Phase Ib clinical trial for pancreatic cancer. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 3, 1997, p. 1.)
* Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, and the University of Texas at Austin entered into a research collaboration to discover and develop telomerase inhibitors as anticancer compounds. Telomerase is an enzyme overproduced by cancer cells, and plays an important role in their immortality. Bristol-Myers will fund a three-year research collaboration and provide payments to the University of Texas for meeting designated research goals. The company will be granted rights to any lead compounds in development or discovered during the collaboration, and the university will receive royalties on any marketed products.
* Chromagen Inc., and CN Biosciences Inc., both of San Diego, entered a multi-year agreement for the marketing and distribution of Chromagen's Direct Read RNA and DNA Assays and other products in the life sciences research market. The deal allows Calbiochem-Novabiochem Corp., a subsidiary of CN Biosciences, exclusive access to certain research uses of products and technology that Chromagen has developed for other markets. It also allows collaborative development of new products based on the technologies.
* Liposome Co. Inc., of Princeton, N.J., presented data on 929 patients with confirmed or suspected fungal infections who were treated with Abelcet (amphotericin B lipid complex injection). The response rate of those who had not responded to another antifungal therapy was 58 percent, and the rate for those who had developed intolerance to previous therapies was 67 percent. Abelcet is marketed by Liposome as less toxic to the kidneys than conventional therapy with amphotericin B, and the data were complied as part of the Collaborative Exchange of Antifungal Research, a national registry founded by Liposome to track patients' clinical therapies.
* Scriptgen Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Medford, Mass., acquired 28,000 additional square feet in a facility in Waltham, Mass., to support its drug discovery and development programs. In the past year, the company has added 35 scientists to its staff. Scriptgen is focused on the discovery of drugs to control gene expression.
* Structural Bioinformatics Inc., of San Diego, began operations at its new subsidiary, SBI Advanced Technologies AS, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. The subsidiary will develop commercial applications of informational theories and technologies developed by Danish scientists. Structural Bioinformatics focuses on the computational analysis of proteins.
* Techniclone Corp., of Tustin, Calif., received clearance from the FDA to begin Phase I trials of 131I-chTNT-1/B, a radioactive chimeric monoclonal antibody, for treatment of malignant glioma. The protocol will use a delivery system pioneered by the National Institutes of Health, and trials are expected to begin at the end of this month. Techniclone also said CEO Lon Stone resigned, and an interim CEO will assist an oversight committee in completing the company's clinical trials and restoring shareholder confidence. Its stock was trading at suspiciously high volumes earlier this year at below $1 per share, and cash reserves were down.