* Alfacell Corp., of Bloomfield, N.J., said it is nearing completion of patient enrollment in its Phase III multicenter clinical trial of its anticancer ribonuclease, Onconase, for newly diagnosed patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The company plans to submit a new drug application to the FDA before the end of 1998. Another Phase III trial was begun in June for Onconase against malignant melanoma.
* ArQule Inc., of Medford, Mass., signed a licensing agreement with the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, for a novel set of chemistries for the practical synthesis of alpha-amino acids from organoboronic acids. The non-natural alpha-amino acids could be useful in discovering compounds that inhibit certain enzymes or resist enzymatic degradation. Patent applications have been filed for the technologies.
* Enzymed Inc., of Iowa City, Iowa, signed a research agreement with Hoffman-La Roche AG, of Basel, Switzerland. The deal is designed to further Roche's efforts to discover drugs for infectious diseases and cardiovascular disorders. Enzymed will use its proprietary combinatorial biocatalysis technology to optimize leads for Roche.
* Hybridon Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., was cleared by the FDA to begin clinical trials with its hybrid antisense compound, GEM 231. The second-generation antitumor compound down-regulates the R1-alpha subunit of protein kinase A (PKA), which is overexpressed in various cancers and is associated with rapid cell growth. The Phase I dose-escalation trials is believed to be the first to use a second-generation compound in a population of patients with cancer.
* Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Lexington, Mass., submitted a new drug application (NDA) to the FDA for CerAxon (citicoline sodium), 500 mg daily, for ischemic stroke. Clinical trials in the U.S., using multiple assessment scales, have shown the drug improves neurological and cognitive function. The NDA includes results from three double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, two in the U.S. and one in Japan.
* Introgen Therapeutics Inc., of Austin, Texas, began a Phase I clinical trial with INGN 201 (Adenoviral-p53 gene therapy) for prostate cancer. Over 50 percent of all cancers have a mutation of the tumor suppressor gene, p53, encoding a protein that responds to damage to a cell's DNA. The protein activates a pathway that stops growth until the damage is repaired, or activates a pathway that leads to cell suicide for heavily damaged cells.
* LXR Biotechnology Inc., of Richmond, Calif., sold 3.4 million shares of common stock in a private placement at $1.75 per share, resulting in gross proceeds of about $6 million. Net proceeds are expected to total $5.5 million, to be used for research and development and general working capital. LXR went public in May 1994.
* Magainin Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., began Phase I testing of squalamine, an angiogenesis inhibitor, for treatment of patients with solid tumors. The first patient was given the drug at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, of San Antonio, Texas. Squalamine, discovered in 1992 in the body tissues of dogfish shark, works to stop the growth of tumor-induced blood vessels by inhibiting salt-and-acid-regulating pumps on the endothelial cell wall, required for capillary formation.
* Vion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New Haven, Conn., filed an investigational new drug application with the FDA for its anticancer agent Triapine, a ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor. Conversion of ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides by ribonucleotide reductase is critical in the synthesis of DNA and essential for cell replication. Target indications of the drug are for solid tumors such as those in the lung and breast as well as colorectal cancer and melanoma.