* Aquila Biopharmaceuticals Inc., of Worcester, Mass., completed a $3.6 million private placement of 769,000 new shares of common stock. The firm placed the shares directly with a group of current investors led by OrbiMed Advisors LLC (formerly Mehta and Isaly), of New York. Aquila now has 5.7 million shares outstanding, about 40 percent of which is owned by institutional investors.
* Idec Pharmaceuticals Corp., of San Diego, initiated a Phase I clinical trial of the humanized monoclonal antibody IDEC-131. The dose-ranging study will enroll about 30 patients with systemic lupus erythematosis. IDEC-131 is designed to regulate the interaction of T and B cells, thereby reducing excessive antibody production and helping restore a more normal immune response in patients with autoimmune-related conditions.
* PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc, of Oxford, U.K., and Chiroscience Group plc, of Cambridge, U.K., will launch a Phase I trial in the U.S. this month of a formulation of the local anesthetic lidocaine that makes use of Dermal PowderJect administration. Dermal Powderject is a hand-held, needleless device that delivers dry powdered drugs and vaccines.
* Protein Sciences Corp., of Meriden, Conn., created an experimental human vaccine against the H5N1 "bird flu" strain of influenza that arose in Hong Kong. The firm delivered more than 1,000 doses of the new vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for use in clinical trials involving laboratory and health care workers at risk from exposure. Protein Sciences cloned the gene for H5 hemagglutinin from genetic material prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, from an influenza virus that infected a three-year-old boy in Hong Kong in May. The cloned gene was then engineered into a production process that uses baculovirus and insect cell fermentation.
* Virus Research Institute Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., licensed its Adjumer vaccine delivery system to Heska Corp., of Fort Collins, Colo., for use in developing animal vaccines. Heska will pay Virus Research Institute license fees and milestones, plus royalties upon commercialization.
* Vysis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Downers Grove, Ill., and Oncor Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., separately reported on the status of their legal patent fight centering on the technology that underlies Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) probes. In a letter to the federal court, Oncor conceded that products cited by Vysis as infringing do infringe in one of two principal uses (with metaphase cells). However, Oncor maintains that Vysis' U.S. patent, No. 5,447,841, is "invalid and unenforceable." The case is set for trial in April.
* GeneMedicine Inc., of The Woodlands, Texas, received $5.25 million in scheduled payments from Hamilton, Bermuda-based Corange Ltd., the parent company of Boehringer Mannheim GmbH. Composed of a $4 million equity purchase and $1.25 million in quarterly research and development support, the payments stem from an alliance between GeneMedicine and Boehringer Mannheim, of Mannheim, Germany, to develop gene medicines for the treatment of head and neck cancer and melanoma.
* Hyseq Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., signed a collaborative agreement with the University of California at San Francisco, whose researchers will collect DNA samples from 20,000 genetically diverse individuals. Many of the samples will include results from angiogram, ultrasound and biochemical tests, allowing a direct comparison of genetic information with clinical histories. Hyseq will sequence and annotate the DNA samples to create a database of genetic information on arteriosclerotic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and related metabolic disorders.
* Interferon Sciences Inc., of New Brunswick, N.J., raised $7.5 million in a private offering of Series A convertible preferred stock to an undisclosed institutional investor. The shares will accrue dividends of 6 percent a year, payable in cash or common stock, and are convertible into common stock at a price equal to the lesser of $12.50 or a discounted price based on the common shares' average trading price 10 days prior to conversion. Interferon Sciences specializes in highly purified, natural-source, multispecies alpha interferon. The company's Alferon N Injection is FDA-approved for the treatment of certain types of genital warts, and is being studied for potential use in other indications.
* MedImmune Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., said it has been granted marketing authorization for CytoGam, which is cytomegalovirus immune globulin intravenous (human), in Mexico and Poland. MedImmune also signed an agreement with Genesis Bio-Pharmaceuticals Inc. for distribution of the drug in Canada. CytoGam is marketed for attenuation of primary cytomegalovirus disease in kidney transplant patients.