Week of September 5, 2011: GSK, Anacor Expand R&D Collaboration; Xoma Announces Management Changes; and More - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Week of September 5, 2011: GSK, Anacor Expand R&D Collaboration; Xoma Announces Management Changes; and More

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Company Notes

Addex Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company, has announced that it will regain all rights to its metabotropic glutamate receptor 4 positive allosteric modulator program from Merck & Co. due to further pipeline prioritization. Under the agreement, Addex will regain rights to intellectual property and pursue the program independently.

The Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory broke ground on a $34.5-million, 50,000-ft2 Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility (APCF) that will enable scientists to produce, purify, and characterize a wide range of proteins. The State of Illinois will provide funding for the design and construction of the APCF, which is slated to open in 2014.

AstraZeneca has completed the $1.8-billion sale of its Astra Tech dental- and healthcare-products business to Dentsply International, a dental-products company. The transaction closed on Aug. 31, 2011.

Baxter’s BioPharma Solutions business has completed its latest capacity expansion at the company’s cytotoxic contract-manufacturing facility in Halle/Westfalen, Germany. The primary component of the expansion was the modular installation of an additional large-scale, commercial lyophilization unit for increasing freeze-drying capacity to support commercial cytotoxic manufacturing capacity. The freeze dryer, which is now in operation, was designed to meet international manufacturing and regulatory requirements.

DMV–Fonterra, an excipients-development company, has agreed to acquire the business and assets of Brahmar Cellulose Private Limited, an Indian-based producer of pharmaceutical microcrystalline cellulose and sodium carboxyl methyl cellulose. The acquisition, subject to customary closing conditions regulatory approval, is scheduled to close in the fourth quarter of 2011.

DSM, has established a 50–50 joint venture for its business group DSM Anti-Infectives with Sinochem Group. As part of the agreement, Sinochem has taken a 50% interest in the business group for EUR 210 million ($295 million). The joint venture will be headquartered in Hong Kong and will be part of a new group, DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals. The joint venture includes all of DSM’s anti-infectives activities.

The drug-development company Evotec and Roche have entered into an agreement for the development and commercialization of Evotec’s monoamine oxidase B inhibitor in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will pay Evotec an upfront fee of $10 million. Evotec could receive further development and commercial milestone payments of up to $820 million as well as tiered double-digit royalties on sales. Roche will initiate studies in 2012 to demonstrate proof of concept and will be responsible for all clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization activities.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the biopharmaceutical company Anacor Pharmaceuticals have expanded their R&D collaboration, providing GSK the option to extend its rights around the bacterial enzyme target leucyl-tRNA synthetase (LeuRS), as well as to add new programs for tuberculosis (TB) and malaria using Anacor’s boron chemistry platform. As a result of the amendment, Anacor will receive a $5-million upfront payment as well as additional potential milestones and research funding of up to $11.3 million by the end of 2012. Anacor is also eligible to receive additional milestones and royalties on future sales of resulting products. The original R&D collaboration was formed in October 2007 for the discovery, development, and worldwide commercialization of boron-based systemic anti-infectives against four discovery targets, including LeuRS. As part of the current amendment, all rights to the other three original targets will revert to Anacor. The amendment also includes the option for GSK to acquire rights to Anacor’s malaria program, focused on development of the lead compound, AN3661, currently being developed through a collaboration with Medicines for Malaria Venture.

Huber Engineered Materials (HEM), a specialty-ingredients provider, has announced an expansion of its Quincy, Illinois, manufacturing operations to accommodate additional capacity for calcium carbonate granulation production for its health and nutrition unit. HEM is targeting the second quarter of 2012 for the facility to become operational, and is planning to generate nearly 10,000 metric tons of calcium carbonate granulation annually. The expansion will be integrated into the existing HuberCal calcium carbonate milling operations and significantly increase GMP capabilities at the Quincy site.

Cancer Research Technology (Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm) and the University of Cambridge (led by Professor Stephen Jackson) have announced the launch of Mission Therapeutics, with Series A funding from a venture capital syndicate. The new spin-out biopharmaceutical company will translate cell biology research on DNA repair from Professor Jackson’s laboratory at the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge, into drugs for treating cancer. The company will be based on the Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, United Kingdom. The company will predominantly conduct research on ubiquitin pathways that control cellular responses to DNA damage. The company has raised £6 million ($9.58 million) in Series A-funding from a strong venture capital syndicate led by Sofinnova Partners, and comprising Imperial Innovations, SR One, and the Roche Venture Fund.

Oxigene, a biopharmaceutical company, has announced a restructuring plan that will terminate the employment of 11 full-time workers. The company is offering severance benefits to the terminated employees and anticipates recording a total charge of approximately $1.2 million, primarily associated with personnel-related termination costs. Approximately $1.1 million of the restructuring charge will be taken in the third quarter of 2011, with the remainder being taken over the following two quarters as the transition is effected.

Pfizer has entered into a 10-year lease agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for more than 180,000 square feet in a new building under development in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new site will be the future location of Pfizer’s cardiovascular, metabolic, endocrine disease, and neuroscience research units. Pfizer expects to move into interim space as the new space is completed, which is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Santhera Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmacetical company, has announced plans to restructure its operations in North America, and intends to cut its workforce from 47 to 26 employees.

The biopharmaceutical company Selecta Biosciences has announced that Science Applications International (SAIC) has awarded Selecta a subcontract to develop a targeted synthetic vaccine particle product for malaria. Funding for the initiative will be provided by SAIC through its Malaria Vaccine Production and Support Services contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. Under the terms of the award, the targeted synthetic vaccine particle vaccine for malaria will be developed by Selecta for testing in preclinical studies by SAIC collaborators.

Synageva BioPharma, a biopharmaceutcial company, has formed an R&D partnership with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma to develop a therapeutic for an undisclosed orphan disease using Synageva’s product-development capabilities and proprietary protein-expression platform. The agreement stipulates an initial target for the research program. Under the terms of the agreement, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma will make an upfront payment of $3 million and will contribute additional research funds.

Tekmira Pharmaceutcials, a biopharmaceutcial company, has obtained an exclusive, worldwide license to a proprietary RNAi technology called MV-RNA (multivalent RNA) from Halo-Bio RNAi Therapeutics. The exclusive license and collaboration agreement provides for the companies to work together to design and develop MV-RNA molecules to gene targets of interest to Tekmira and to combine MV-RNA molecules with Tekmira's lipid nanoparticle technology to develop therapeutic products.

Zymeworks, a biotechnology company, has formed a research collaboration with Merck & Co., around Zymeworks’ proprietary Azymetric platform for the development of novel bispecific antibody therapeutic candidates, which are designed to bind to two different drug targets for broad use in clinical applications such as oncology or autoimmune disease. Under the terms of the agreement Zymeworks has granted Merck, through a subsidiary, a worldwide license to develop and commercialize bispecific antibodies generated through use of the Azymetric platform toward certain exclusive therapeutic targets. Both companies will collaborate to advance the technology platform, with Merck working to progress the bispecific therapeutic antibody candidates through clinical development. Zymeworks will receive an upfront fee and is eligible to receive research, development, and regulatory milestones with a potential value of up to $187 million, as well as tiered royalty payments on sales of products. Merck will have exclusive worldwide commercialization rights to products derived from the collaboration.

People Notes

Xoma, a company specializing in antibody discovery and development, has announced that Steve Engle has resigned from his positions as CEO, president, and chairman of the board, effective Aug. 31, 2011. As a result, the board has appointed John Varian, a current board member, as interim CEO, and W. Denman Van Ness, Xoma’s lead independent director, as chairman of the board. The board is initiating a search for a permanent CEO.

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