* Abgenix Inc., of Fremont, Calif., inked a collaborative research agreement with the Schering-Plough Research Institute (SPRI), of Kenilworth, N.J. Under the agreement, Abgenix will use its XenoMouse technology to generate human monoclonal antibodies to an undisclosed antigen target. SPRI, a division of Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., has an option to enter an agreement that would provide Abgenix with research support, milestones and royalties on commercialized products. Abgenix is a subsidiary of Foster City, Calif.-based Cell Genesys Inc.
* Aviron Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., said it is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, to prepare two vaccine candidates for potential use in the event of a pandemic of Hong Kong flu resulting from the avian (H5N1) virus. The company's research team provided an update to the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. The "avian" flu vaccine candidates are being prepared by genetically inserting into human master strains the weakened and modified hemagglutinin and neuraminidase surface proteins that are taken from avian flu viruses. These proteins have been used safely in more than 9,000 subjects who received Aviron's cold-adapted influenza vaccine in clinical trials.
* Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, reported in the February 1998 issue of Nature Genetics that mutations of a "tubby-like" human gene appear to cause the inherited blindness disorder retinitis pigmentosa. The human gene involved, TULP1 (tubby-like protein 1), is related to the mouse obesity gene known as "tubby." Axys, which aims to ultimately use the research to create therapeutics and diagnostics, recently received a U.S. patent covering the full-length sequence of the TULP1 gene and its protein product.
* Chiron Corp., of Emeryville, Calif., and Pharmacia & Upjohn, of London, agreed to work together to identify small-molecule inhibitors of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Pharmacia & Upjohn will pay Chiron an up-front payment, but the companies will contribute equally to research and development costs and will share worldwide marketing rights. Additional terms were not disclosed. Chiron will provide its HCV knowledge, plus nonexclusive rights to both patented and patent-pending HCV targets.
* Cor Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, and some of its officers and directors face a shareholders class action suit alleging the firm violated securities laws over a period stretching from Aug. 25, 1997, to Jan. 28, 1998. The complaint alleges that throughout the period the company disseminated "false and misleading statements about the results of the clinical trials for its drug Integrilin for use in patients with unstable angina and non-Q-wave myocardial infarction." An FDA advisory panel last week recommended approval of Integrilin for use in angioplasty — a more restricted indication than the company had sought. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 29, 1998.)
* Cytel Corp., of San Diego, expanded a carbohydrate supply agreement with Deerfield, Ill.-based Baxter Healthcare Corp.'s Nextran Inc. unit. Under the new agreement, Cytel will provide additional alpha-galactose carbohydrate products for treating hyperacute rejection associated with xenotransplantation. Nextran made a $1 million equity investment and will make milestone payments.
* INSMED Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Richmond, Va., said it pilot clinical study to evaluate its lead compound, INS-1, in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) showed encouraging results in 30 obese women with the disease. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in the U.S., and the drug is a small, carbohydrate-based molecule. At the end of the study, 93 percent of women treated had ovulated, compared with 27 percent in the placebo group.
* Invitrogen Corp., of Carlsbad, Calif., broke ground for construction of a new facility to house Invitrogen BV, in Groningen, the Netherlands. Invitrogen, which has developed proprietary gene expression and cloning technologies, has its European headquarters in Leek, southeast of Groningen.
* Neurobiological Technologies Inc., of Richmond, Calif., said its open label Phase I/II trials of Xerecept showed the drug improved neurological symptoms in 10 of 15 patients with brain swelling associated with brain tumors. The company said its drug, a synthetic preparation of corticotropin-releasing factor, may be safer than chronic high-dose corticosteroid therapy. The data from the pilot trial were presented in the January 1998 issue of Annals of Oncology.
* Procept Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., raised $1.2 million in an initial closing of the company's offering, which is designed to raise $4 million to $6 million more by the end of the first quarter of 1998. Procept has restructured its operations to focus on development of its Pro 2000 Gel as a female-controlled topical microbicide for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. PRO 2000 is a small-molecule drug designed to bind to the CD4 receptor on T cells and prevent HIV from infecting the immune system cells.
* RiboGene Inc., of Hayward, Calif., collaborated with Dainippon Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, to discover novel antibacterial compounds using RiboGene's technology. RiboGene has granted Dainippon exclusive worldwide rights to develop and market antibacterials discovered using two of RiboGene's principal antibacterial targets. Dainippon will provide up to $2 million per year over three years and will make a $2 million equity investment in the company.