* Amgen Inc.'s megakaryocyte growth and development factor (MGDF) demonstrated it could boost platelet levels by 70 percent in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Findings of the Phase I/II trial were reported in the Feb. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is developing MGDF to restore platelets destroyed by chemotherapy treatments.
* EpiGenesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Greenville, N.C., received a $200,000 grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center for research into an asthma treatment. EpiGenesis was formed as a spin-off from East Carolina University, in Greenville.
* Neurogen Corp., of Branford, Conn., began a Phase Ib trial of its anti-obesity drug, NGD 95-1. The small molecule is designed to block neuropeptide Y receptors, which are thought to be stimulators of appetite. The drug is under development in collaboration with Pfizer Inc., of New York.
* Sugen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., began a Phase II, open-label study of SU101 for treatment of refractory brain tumors. The drug inhibits a pathway controlled by the platelet-derived growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase, which is involved in cell growth. Malfunction of the receptor is linked to a variety of cancers.
* Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco, entered into a multi-year collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, for discovery of genes involved in development of the zebrafish. The research is aimed at understanding embryonic formation of human organs. Genentech said it will provide significant funding to Massachusetts General, but did not disclose the amount.
* Introgen Therapeutics Inc., of Austin, Texas, received a $5 million milestone payment from Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc., of Collegeville, Pa, for progress in its in vivo gene therapy for cancer. The treatment involves using adenoviral vectors to deliver normal copies of p53 tumor suppressor genes to cancer sites. The genes encode a protein that checks abnormal cell growth.
* Microcide Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., received a $1 million milestone payment from Pfizer Inc., of New York, in their collaboration to identify bacterial genes for targets in the development of new antibiotics. Microcide said the milestone is related to identification, validation and sequencing of genes considered essential for survival of bacteria.