* CoCensys Inc., of Irvine, Calif., amended and expanded its license agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital for the use of neuroactive steroids, or epalons, including ganaxolone, to treat migraine. Under the amended agreement, CoCensys gains exclusive worldwide rights to the hospital's patent-pending technology for the use of neuroactive steroid drugs and other gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) receptor modulators in the treatment of migraine. Hospital researchers have found that naturally occurring epalons can suppress neurogenic dural inflammation, one of the contributing factors for migraine headaches.
* Corixa Corp., of Seattle, extended by six months a research agreement with Pasteur Merieux Connaught, of Lyon, France, to study the effectiveness of leishmania elongation initiation factor, or LeIF, as an adjuvant for infectious disease vaccines under development. The new agreement expands the scope of the original agreement, which would have expired in December 1997, to compare responses of commercially available adjuvants to LeIF. Pasteur Merieux Connaught has exclusive rights to use LeIF in influenza and syncytial virus vaccines, and nonexclusive rights for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria vaccines.
* CytRx Corp., of Atlanta, initiated a three-site Phase I trial of Flocor in patients suffering from sickle cell-associated acute chest syndrome. The syndrome and related complications account for one-fourth of all sickle cell disease deaths. Flocor will soon enter a pivotal, 300-patient Phase III trial to treat vascular occlusive crisis associated with sickle cell disease.
* Dynavax Technologies Corp., of La Jolla, Calif., signed a royalty-bearing cross-licensing agreement with Vical Inc., of San Diego. Each company gains exclusive rights to combine the other firm's DNA immunization technology with its own to develop new therapeutic and preventive agents. Dynavax's rights center on allergy, asthma and autoimmune diseases, and Vical's on infectious diseases and cancer.
* Genetronics Biomedical Ltd., of San Diego, received approval to use electroporation to treat 60 French cancer patients. The electroporation therapy will use electric fields to open cell pores that admit an antitumor drug previously injected into the tumor.
* Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., initiated Phase I/II clinical trials of ISIS 13312, a compound to treat cytomegalovirus retinitis in patients with AIDS. The first of the company's second-generation antisense compounds to enter clinical trials, ISIS 13312 will be evaluated in an open-label, dose-ranging study in patients with AIDS and advanced CMV retinitis who have been unresponsive to currently marketed therapies.
* Sangamo BioSciences Inc., of Point Richmond, Calif., completed a $7 million private placement of Series B preferred stock. Principal investors are JAFCO Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, and Lombard Odier Zurich Ltd., of Zurich, Switzerland. Sangamo designs transcription factors for the site-specific recognition and therapeutic regulation of human genes. The company has raised $12 million since its founding in 1995.
* Arris Pharmaceuticals Inc. shareholders approved all proposals associated with the South San Francisco-based company's merger with Sequana Therapeutics Inc., of La Jolla, Calif. An Arris shareholder had opposed the $166 million deal, which is expected to close later this week. The combined entity, called Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., will begin trading on Nasdaq under the symbol AXPH. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 10, 1997, p. 1.)
* Pharmacyclics Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., is seeking to generate $39.6 million in a public offering of 1.75 million shares at an assumed price of $22.63 each. Upon the offering's close, the company will have approximately 11.9 million shares outstanding. Pharmacyclics' lead product candidates are the radiation sensitizer Gd-Tex and photosensitizer Antrin, both for cancer; and Antrin, for photoangioplasty of atherosclerosis.
* Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Tarrytown, N.Y., published research in the January issue of the Journal of Virology identifying a binding site for HIV on the CCR5 coreceptor. The study, titled "Amino-terminal substitutions in the CCR5 vo-receptor impair gp120 binding and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 entry," resulted from a collaboration between scientists from Progenics and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, of New York City.
* Repligen Corp., of Needham, Mass., received a $2 million investment from Biotechnology Value Fund LP and affiliates, of San Francisco, and Four Partners, of New York. The investment consists of 2 million shares of common stock and warrants to purchase an additional 750,000 shares at $1.50 per share. The funding allows Repligen to accelerate development of growth factor antagonists and expand screening to include additional targets.
* SangStat Medical Corp., of Menlo Park, Calif., bought $2.5 million worth of common stock of Gensia Sicor Inc., of San Diego, in connection with an amended agreement for the commercial supply of cyclosporine bulk drug substance. The companies are gearing up for a U.S. commercial launch, pending regulatory approval, of SangStat's cyclosporine product, with the bulk drug to be supplied by Gensia Sicor.
* Seragen Inc., of Hopkinton, Mass., closed the $5 million sale of its manufacturing and contract research operations to Boston University. The move "deliberately" transforms Seragen into a "virtual biotech company," said Reed Prior, CEO. Completion of the sale also triggered the launch of Marathon Biopharmaceuticals Inc., which was formed in connection with Boston University's purchase of Seragen's operations divisions. Marathon, with 100 former Seragen employees, also will be located in Hopkinton.
* U.S. Bioscience Inc., of West Conshohocken, Pa., signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for clinical development of lodenosine, an anti-HIV compound now in Phase I trials in adult and pediatric patients. Lodenosine is an acid-stable, purine-based reverse transcriptase inhibitor that was discovered, patented and developed preclinically by researchers at NCI.