* Chiron Corp., of Emeryville, Calif., granted to Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., of New York, and Arris Pharmaceutical Corp., of San Francisco, the first non-exclusive licenses under Chiron's hepatitis C virus patent portfolio for protease inhibitor research. The licenses allow Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Arris to practice research under Chiron's patents related to hepatitis C virus NS3 protease. The company said it will continue to make its patent estate available to other companies for a "reasonable period of time."
* DepoMed Inc., of Foster City, Calif., made detachable and separately transferable the common stock and warrants comprising its units. Trading symbols for the stock and warrants, traded and quoted on the Nasdaq Smallcap Market, are DPMD and DPMDW, respectively. As of Dec. 8 the units will no longer be traded. Each warrant in each unit entitles the holder to buy, during the period starting Nov. 5, 1998, until Nov. 4, 2002, one share of stock at an exercise price of $7.625.
* Discovery Laboratories Inc., of New York, completed its merger with Ansan Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco. Shareholders of Discovery will be issued securities representing about 92 percent of the combined entity (exclusive of certain outstanding warrants), which will be named Discovery Laboratories Inc. and will use a new Nasdaq symbol, DSCO. After the closing of the merger, the combined company effected a one-for-three reverse split of common stock and warrants. (See BioWorld Today, July 22, 1997, p. 1.)
* Exelixis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said the company is cofounding a new biotechnology company, Artemis Pharmaceuticals, of Koln, Germany. Artemis will seek to identify and validate drug screening targets in model vertebrate systems, combining Exelixis' knowledge in fruit flies and nematodes with Artemis' expertise in zebrafish and mouse genetic technology. Exelixis will make a significant minority investment in Artemis, and the two companies will have overlapping boards of directors and scientific advisors.
* Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., reported on a study demonstrating that precisely controlled doses of therapeutic proteins can be delivered in vivo in response to the administration of an orally active drug. The research, published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed that it may be possible to overcome the limitations of protein therapy, which include the requirement for delivery by injection and the difficulty of maintaining stable levels of protein in the patient. Ariad's ARGENT (Arid Regulated Gene Expression Technology) therapeutic protein delivery system is based on transcription factors, intracellular signaling molecules that activate gene expression. ARGENT is due to enter human clinical trials next year.
* Ensign Inc., of Piscataway, N.J., said its marketing partner, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Canada Inc., had received Canadian marketing approval for Enzon's Oncaspar, the native enzyme L-asparaginase modified by Enzon's PEG technology. Oncaspar was approved for patients diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) during childhood. Enzon said the Canadian approval broadens the indication for use of Oncaspar as a front-line therapy over the current approved indication in the U.S. and Germany, where the product is approved as a second-line treatment for patients with ALL who are hypersensitive to native L-asparaginase.
* Hemagen Diagnostics Inc., of Waltham, Mass., received FDA clearance to market three new assays to diagnose respiratory tract disease. Virgo ANCA (anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies) Screen, Virgo cANCA and Virgo pANCA are used to aid in the diagnosis of patients with Wegener's disease, a systemic vasculitis characterized by lesions in the upper and lower respiratory tract and kidney.
* Hyal Pharmaceutical Corp., of Mississauga, Ontario, said it has completed a C$13.9 million (US$9.8 million) private placement of three-year, 14.5 percent subordinate convertible debentures involving a number of institutional investors. The debentures and interest are convertible into common shares based on a formula conversion price. After the placement, the company had about C$23 million (US$16 million) cash on hand.
* Immunex Corp., of Seattle, said the FDA accepted for review its abbreviated new drug application for generic paclitaxel injection. Currently marketed by Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., of New York, under the trademark Taxol, paclitaxel is a chemotherapeutic agent discovered by the National Cancer Institute in 1971. It is used to treat metastatic breast and ovarian cancers.
* Immunomedics Inc., of Morris Plains, N.J., was awarded $1.5 million in a dispute with Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc., of Kalamazoo, Mich., after binding arbitration. The dispute originated when Pharmacia terminated a marketing and product development contract, and the parties could not agree on the amount owed to Immunomedics. Originally, the contract was with the Adria Laboratories Division of Erabamont Inc., which later became Pharmacia Inc., and then became Pharmacia & Upjohn.
* The Immune Response Corp., of Carlsbad, Calif., said it has treated the first patient in its Phase IIb rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial, which is planned to include up to 300 patients at 22 sites. The treatment involved in the study is a T cell receptor peptide therapeutic vaccine consisting of a combination of three T cell receptor peptides plus an adjuvant. It is designed to turn off the specific immune system cells that are believed by Immune Response to cause rheumatoid arthritis. Trial results are expected to be available by year-end 1998.
* La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co., of San Diego, has initiated the testing of a series of Toleragen drug candidates in primates to assess the drugs' potential to arrest the production of antibodies responsible for rejection in xenotransplantation. In the first study, the drug was well tolerated and reduced antibody levels one hour after dosing. Toleragens are designed to inactivate specific immune system B cells that produce disease-causing antibodies, without affecting the protective functions of the immune system.
* Magainin Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Plymouth Meeting, Pa. said it completed the sale of an additional 337,500 shares of common stock at a price of $8 a share, pursuant to the exercise in full of the overallotment option held by Hambrecht & Quist LLC, BancAmerica Robertson Stephens and Cowen & Co. The initial sale of 2.25 million shares was completed on Nov. 17.
* Medarex Inc., of Annandale, N.J., said it has discovered a new approach to using monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of infectious diseases. In new studies reported in the December issue of the journal Blood, researchers demonstrated that antibodies that bind to the IgA receptor recruit neutrophils to attack infectious fungi and tumor cells. The findings may be particularly valuable in developing treatments for infectious diseases.
* Repligen Corp., of Needham, Mass., received a milestone payment from Pfizer Inc., of New York, with which it has been collaborating for the past two years. The two companies are working to identify inhibitors of growth factors that may have roles in a variety of diseases. The Drug Pfinder program at Pfizer, which uses a proprietary high-throughput screening assay developed by Repligen, has identified a small molecule which will be the subject of an internal research program at Pfizer.