* Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., launched a Phase I trial of VX-497, an oral inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) inhibitor for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. The 50-patient U.K. study will test pharmacokinetics and tolerability in escalating doses. IMPDH is an enzyme involved in the immune response that enables lymphocyte proliferation and recruitment by catalyzing a key step in one of two DNA nucleotide biosynthesis pathways. According to Vertex, IMPDH inhibition appears to selectively suppress immune system cells while leaving other cells unaffected and may play a role in downregulating inappropriate immune responses.

* Viragen Inc., of Plantation, Fla., could acquire up to 80 percent of Philadelphia-based Inflammatics Inc. depending on the outcome of clinical trials. Inflammatics produces LeukoVAX, a rheumatoid arthritis drug derived from human white blood cells. Terms were not disclosed.

* Anika Therapeutics Inc., of Woburn, Mass., said a lawsuit alleging the company made false and misleading product statements has been withdrawn. Biomatrix Inc., of Ridgefield, N.J, filed the suit in November with the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. In December, Anika filed a motion seeking dismissal, and on Jan. 8, Biomatrix filed a dismissal stipulation with the court. Both companies make hyaluronic acid products for osteoarthritis of the knee.

* Cypros Pharmacuetical Corp., of Carlsbad, Calif., now has common shares trading on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol CYP. The stock previously traded on the Nasdaq National Market.

* Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Baltimore, and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc., of Collegeville, Pa., initiated a Phase III clinical trial using Gliadel Wafer (prolifeprosan 20 with carmustine implant) in conjunction with surgery and radiation in patients newly diagnosed with a malignant glioma. The 200-patient international study aims to confirm the results of a previous Phase III trial showing Gliadel offers a significant survival advantage over placebo.

* SUGEN Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., received a $500,000 equity investment from ASTA Medica AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, for reaching a milestone in the companies' joint Pan-HER cancer program. The program's objective is to develop small-molecule signal transduction inhibitors that selectively inhibit all receptors in the Human EGF receptor (HER) family without significant activity on other receptor tyrosine kinases.

* Virus Research Institute Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., licensed worldwide rights to Therapore, a novel immunotherapy delivery system, from Harvard University, also of Cambridge. Therapore will be developed to deliver products for the treatment of chronic viral infections and cancers.

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