* Chiron Corp., of Emeryville, Calif., completed enrollment in a Phase I trial of its hepatitis C virus vaccine. The 48 patients participating in the double-blind, dose escalating study will receive three immunizations over a six-month period. The trial and data analysis are slated for completion in 1999.
* Corixa Corp., of Seattle, received a $2 million option payment in conjunction with the extension of an agreement with SmithKline Beecham Biologicals SA, of Rixensart, Belgium. SmithKline Beecham Biologicals, a division of London-based SmithKline Beecham plc, has an exclusive option to license Corixa's early-stage antigen discovery program for an undisclosed cancer target. A second option will come due for extension or exercise during the third quarter of 1998. The options are part of broader agreements that also cover development of breast and prostate cancer vaccines.
* Cypress Bioscience Inc., of San Diego, inked an agreement with Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation's Amsterdam-based CLB Division to collaborate on process development and scale-up of Cyplex, Cypress' platelet alternative. Cypress and CLB will share costs, and CLB will gain a license to manufacture and sell Cyplex in some areas. Slated to enter a Phase II clinical study in March, Cyplex is a freeze-dried platelet membrane preparation derived from outdated or fresh platelets.
* Diversa Corp., of San Diego, received a $300,000 Phase II Small Business Innovative Research award from the National Science Foundation to further its search for cold-adapted enzymes. The company said the funding will enable its researchers to characterize, optimize and manufacture numerous cold-adapted esterases and lipases for use in industrial processes.
* Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, said its Targretin was more effective than tamoxifen in a breast cancer study published in the February 1998 issue of Cancer Research. Tamoxifen hormonal therapy is the most widely prescribed breast cancer therapy. Targretin is a synthetic retinoid analogue that selectively activates a subclass of retinoid receptors called retinoid X receptors, which play an important role in several cellular activities, including apoptosis.
* OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Uniondale, N.Y., was awarded a $750,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health in support of OSI's program targeting the discovery of transcriptional regulators of Hexokinase II (HK-II) for the treatment of Type II diabetes. The initiative focuses on the direct control of blood glucose levels. OSI is using its gene transcription technology to identify compounds modulating the expression of key genes involved in glucose regulation.
* SangStat Medical Corp., of Menlo Park, Calif., received a "minor deficiency" letter from the FDA regarding the company's marketing application for Sang-35, its cyclosporine product. The application was submitted in November 1996 as a bioequivalent formulation of Neoral for the prevention of organ transplant rejection. The letter from the FDA asks a short list of questions not related to the bioequivalence trials, and SangStat will respond to the questions in the next two to three weeks.
* Terrapin Technologies Inc., of South San Francisco, and Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New Haven, Conn., entered into a research and development collaboration under which they will work on validating and identifying targets important to treating estrogen-related problems. Terrapin's chemoinformatics will be used to identify drug candidates that can modulate the role of isogenes (variants) of the estrogen receptors. Genaissance has discovered several novel isogene targets through its pharmacogenomics research.
* Trega Biosciences Inc., of San Diego, met a milestone in its May 1997 agreement with Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J., which used Trega's combinatorial chemistry libraries to identify a series of lead compounds active in a Warner-Lambert biological target. In acknowledgment, Warner-Lambert will negotiate terms of a broader research agreement, and will buy $1.5 million worth of Trega stock, with the timing and pricing of the purchase to be determined by Trega during the next two years. Trega also signed a non-binding letter of intent to expand its $25 million research and development relationship with Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, which began in June 1997. (See BioWorld Today, June 20, 1997 p. 1.)
* Vical Inc., of San Diego, licensed its "naked" DNA technology to Centocor Inc., of Malvern, Pa., which will use it to develop and market gene-based vaccines for the treatment of certain types of cancer. Centocor paid Vical $2 million upfront and will make additional payments if Centocor successfully develops products using Vical's technology. Centocor gets exclusive worldwide licenses and options to license Vical's "naked" DNA technology to deliver certain antigens to induce immune responses against the associated cancer cells.
* Xenometrix Inc., of Boulder, Colo., said BASF AG, of Ludwigshafen, Germany, will incorporate Xenometrix's Ames II assay into all of its early chemical compound screening. When a compound is found to be genotoxic in an Ames test, it is generally regarded as cancer-causing. BASF's evaluation of the Ames II assay included 130 chemicals, all previously tested using the traditional Ames salmonella assay. The chemicals were coded and sent by BASF to Xenometrix, where the Ames II test was used in an automated, high-throughput mode.