* ImaRx Pharmaceutical Corp., of Tucson, Ariz., will license its proprietary cationic lipids gene ligands MRX-220 and MRX-230 to Avanti Polar Lipids Inc., of Alabaster, Ala. The gene ligands lipids provide high levels of gene expression from transfection in serum-containing media. Avanti will manufacture and sell them for research purposes and ImaRx will retain all rights for therapeutic purposes.
* Interferon Sciences Inc., of New Brunswick, N.J., completed a Phase III trial investigating the safety and efficacy of its Alferon N injection for HIV-positive patients. The company will collect data from 16 sites over the next several months. Alferon N is a highly purified, naturally derived alpha interferon product, already approved for sale in Mexico, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong.
* LXR Biotechnology Inc., of Richmond, Calif., discovered a new family of genes that regulate cell life and death in major organs. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, appears to be controlled by newly found proteins dubbed secreted apoptosis-related proteins (SARP). Expressions by members of the SARP family in one cell can affect the survival of neighboring cells, according to the findings, which were reported in the Dec. 8 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
* Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., signed a licensing agreement with Sepracor Inc., of Marlborough, Mass., giving Schering-Plough exclusive worldwide rights to Sepracor's patents covering descarboethoxyloratadine (DCL), an active metabolite of loratadine, which is the active ingredient in Schering-Plough's five formulations of the non-sedating antihistamine Claritin. Preclinical studies show DCL has potential for greater potency. Schering-Plough will pay Sepracor an up-front license fee of $5 million and escalating royalties on DCL sales beginning at the first product launch.
* SIBIA Neurosciences Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., said results from its multiple-dose Phase I trial of SIB-1508Y in healthy adults 40 to 70 years old showed the drug was well tolerated and rapidly absorbed. SIB-1508Y is a selective brain nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist being developed to treat motor, cognitive and affective deficits in Parkinson's disease. Phase II studies are expected to begin early next year.
* Sparta Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Horsham, Pa., acquired exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize pyrazinoylguanidine (PZG), a drug candidate with potential against diseases including Type II diabetes. Studies in animals and preliminary Phase II trials suggest the drug may reduce blood lipids in diabetics and blood pressure in those who are hypertensive. PZG will be developed by Horizon Pharmaceuticals, which will be a majority-owned subsidiary of Sparta.
* The University of California-San Francisco said studies it is conducting on a premalignant breast cancer vaccine indicate that the vaccine might prove to be an effective therapy in preventing further spread of the disease, thus reducing the chance of death. Laura Esserman, director of the UCSF Breast Care Center, said the vaccine may prove to be an ideal intervention to prevent premalignant lesions called ductal carcinoma in situ from becoming invasive breast cancer.
* BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., said it will file an investigational new drug application with the FDA for its serine protease inhibitor program. The company's lead candidate is BCX-1470, a compound that blocks key blood enzymes known as serine proteases, which are responsible for excessive bleeding and inflammatory damage related to cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. It would be used in patients receiving heparin during bypass surgery.
* Cell Genesys Inc., of Foster City, Calif., said a team of its scientists has prevented neurodegeneration in an animal model for Parkinson's disease by using adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapy. AAV vectors delivered the gene for glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor to the affected region of the brain. Stable expression of the gene resulted for ten weeks, the duration of the study, which was published in the Dec. 9, 1997, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.