* Amgen Inc., of Thousand Oaks, Calif., began clinical trials with a new red blood cell boosting molecule, called Novel Erythropoiesis Stimulating Protein (NESP), for treatment of anemia in patients with chronic renal failure. Amgen said NESP has a different structure from Epogen, which is erythropoietin, and is sold by Amgen for increasing production of red blood cells in patients with kidney disease.
* Arqule Inc., of Medford, Mass., extended its 1995 drug development agreement with Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill., through March 1999. The companies are targeting the drug discovery and development for a variety of disorders such as neurological, metabolic and infectious diseases. Arqule's technology creates libraries of small organic compounds for screening against biological targets.
* Connective Therapeutics Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., began a Phase II trial of gamma interferon for treatment of keloids, which are fibrotic growths caused by excessive collagen build-up from improper healing of the skin. The trial is designed to evaluate gamma interferon's ability to prevent recurrence of keloids following surgery. The company also is testing gamma interferon in Phase III trials for atopic dermatitis.
* Cypress Bioscience Inc., of San Diego, reported positive results from a Phase II study of its infusible platelet membranes (IPM), which are used to stop bleeding. IPM, under development as a substitute for platelet transfusions, is a freeze-dried form of ground up platelet membranes. Among advantages of IPM over platelets are elimination of contamination from viruses and longer storage life.
* Cytogen Corp., of Princeton, N.J., negotiated three new licensing agreements for its prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) technology and the monoclonal antibody developed from it. Boehringer Mannheim GmbH, of Mannheim, Germany, received a non-exclusive license to the antigen for in vitro diagnostics. Prostagen Inc., of New York, received an exclusive license to PSMA for development of a vaccine. And Pacific Northwest Research Foundation, of Seattle, licensed the monoclonal antibody for in vitro testing. Cytogen created the monoclonal antibody to PSMA for ProstaScint, an imaging agent for prostate cancer, and retained rights to the antibody for therapeutic and in vivo diagnostic applications.
* Molecular Informatics Inc., of Sante Fe, N.M., signed a three-year licensing agreement with Monsanto Co., of St. Louis, for use of the former's BioMerge software for analysis of genomic data derived from multiple sources. Financial terms were not disclosed.
* NABI, of Boca Raton, Fla., said its Phase III trial of HIV-IG will continue following an interim review for efficacy and safety. The drug, an HIV-immune globulin, is being tested in combination with London-based GlaxoWellcome plc's AZT for prevention of HIV transmission from infected pregnant women to their infants. The study began in 1993 and will enroll 800 prospective mothers. NABI said 459 women have received treatment. The HIV-IG and AZT combination is being evaluated against AZT with standard immune therapy.
* Xoma Corp., of Berkeley, Calif., filed an investigational new drug application with the FDA to begin clinical trials of a humanized monoclonal antibody, called hu1124, to prevent rejection of kidney transplants. The drug is under development in a collaboration with Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco. The antibody targets the CD11a receptor on T cells to inhibit an immune response against transplanted organs.