Company and People Notes: Teva and Lonza to Form Joint Venture; USP Elects Duane M. Kirking Chairman; More...

January 22, 2009
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors
ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Also, Elan explores strategic alternatives; NanoGuardian appoints John D. Glover to lead its Security Advisory Board; more...

Company Notes

Los Angeles, CA (Jan. 20)-The biotechnology company Abraxis BioScience announced that its board of directors approved a plan to create Abraxis Health, an independent, stand-alone company to be spun-off from Abraxis BioScience that focuses on becoming a fully integrated, next-generation, evidence-based, personalized healthcare company. The completion of any spin-off transaction will be subject to customary conditions, including filing of required documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company expects to file in the first quarter of 2009.

Bristol, UK (Jan. 13)-Apitope Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Apitope International (Hasselt, Belgium), announced a research, development, and commercialization agreement with Merck Serono (Bristol, England), a division of Merck KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany). Under the agreement, Apitope has granted rights to Merck Serono to develop and commercialize Apitope’s product “ATX-MS-1467,” a peptide therapeutic that completed an initial clinical study in patients with MS. Apitope is eligible to receive up to € 154 million ($198.5 million) in upfront, development, and commercialization milestone payments in addition to royalties.

Columbus, OH (Jan 14.)-Battelle, a nonprofit research and development organization, will invest more than $200 million in central Ohio to add, construct, and renovate manufacturing, office, child-care, and laboratory facilities in Columbus, Dublin, and West Jefferson. Battelle is expanding and upgrading its existing biomedical research facilities, and in West Jefferson, Battelle will construct a health and life sciences research laboratory slated for operation in 2011. The plans include the creation of more than 200 science and research jobs, and Battelle estimates that its $200 million in capital investments will result in a total of $450 million during the course of construction.

Lexington, MA (Jan. 9)-Cubist Pharmaceuticals, an acute-care biopharmaceutical company, and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (Cambridge, MA), an RNAi therapeutics company, formed a collaboration to develop and commercialize Alnylam's “ALN-RSV” program. The RSV-specific RNAi therapeutic program includes “ALN-RSV01,” which is in Phase II clinical development for the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in adult lung transplant patients, as well as other preclinical studies.

Dublin, Ireland (Jan. 13)-The neuroscience-based biotechnology company Elan announced its board of directors engaged Citigroup Global Markets to conduct, in conjunction with executive management and other external advisors, a review of the company's strategic alternatives. The company says the goal is to secure access to financial resources and commercial infrastructure, and the alternatives could include minority investment or strategic alliance, a merger, or sale, according to a company press release.

Cambridge, MA (Jan. 12)-FORMA Therapeutics entered into a license and option agreement through the Novartis Option Fund.  Under the terms of the agreement, FORMA will leverage its biology and chemistry platform to develop inhibitors for an undisclosed protein-protein interaction target in the field of oncology. The agreement includes an upfront fee and potential milestones totaling over $200 million, as well as royalties.

Parsippany, NJ (Jan. 12)-The Medicines Company entered into a merger agreement with Targanta Therapeutics, under which The Medicines Company will commence a tender offer to acquire 100% of Targanta's outstanding shares. Under the agreement, Targanta shareholders will receive $2 in cash for each common share tendered, or approximately $42 million. Targanta shareholders may also be entitled to receive additional milestone payments. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

San Diego (Jan. 20)-Metabasis Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, announced a corporate restructuring plan that will reduce its workforce by approximately 43%, or 38 employees. The plan also includes a focus on the company’s product candidates, “MB07811” for the treatment of hyperlipidemia and “MB07803” for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, as well as on advancing its glucagon antagonist program.

New York (Jan. 15)-Pfizer is considering a plan to cut up to 2400 sales positions, according to a Bloomberg report. An analyst speculates this and other cost-cutting measures may be discussed at Pfizer’s Jan. 28 investor meeting, says the Bloomberg article.

Jerusalem, Israel (Jan. 20)-Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Lonza Group (Basel, Switzerland) will establish a joint venture to develop, manufacture, and market a portfolio of biosimilars. The joint venture is expected to commence during the first quarter of 2009, subject to customary regulatory approvals. Financial details were not disclosed.

Brussels, Belgium (Jan. 9)-UCB Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company, and Wilex (Munich, Germany), a company focused on the development of drugs and diagnostic agents for cancer, today announced a strategic partnership aimed at developing UCB’s preclinical oncology portfolio. Wilex will acquire UCB's entire preclinical oncology portfolio and UCB has buyback options. Also, UCB will become a strategic investor in Wilex.

New Delhi and Mumbai, India (Jan. 15)-The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Food and Drug Administration announced the opening of new offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, India. The new offices will feature 10 experienced officials to work closely with industries that ship food and medical products to the US, including an office director, four inspectors, and five senior technical experts who will cover food, medical devices and medicines. 

Collegeville, PA (Jan. 12)-Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, a division of Wyeth, and Santaris Pharma (Hoersholm, Denmark) entered into an alliance to discover, develop, and commercialize new medicines based on Santaris Pharma’s proprietary “Locked Nucleic Acid” (LNA) drug platform, which allows specific targeting and regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) and messenger RNAs (mRNAs) as a means to affect gene expression mediated by the targeted RNAs. Under the agreement, Santaris Pharma will receive an upfront payment of $7 million in cash and Wyeth will make a $10 million equity investment in Santaris Pharma. Santaris Pharma may receive further milestone payments of up to $83 million for each of 10 potential targets and royalties on the sales of all products arising from the alliance.

Berkeley, CA (Jan. 15)-XOMA announced it will reduce its workforce by approximately 42%, or 144 employees, a majority of which are in manufacturing. The company remains staffed with 197 employees to develop “XOMA 052,” its anti-inflammatory antibody drug candidate for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, and to continue fully funded antibody discovery and development with its pharmaceutical partners and the US government in biodefense.

People Notes

Skokie, IL (Jan. 19)-NanoGuardian, a division of NanoInk that focuses on anticounterfeiting solutions, appointed John D. Glover to lead its Security Advisory Board.  Glover formerly held positions with the FBI, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, and the US State Department.

Princeton, NJ (Jan. 19)-The board of directors of Nucryst Pharmaceuticals, a company that develops, manufactures, and commercializes medical products using its proprietary nanocrystalline silver technology, appointed David B. Holtz interim president and CEO and Neil Carragher as chairman. Holtz replaces Thomas E. Gardner, who was chairman, president and CEO. Holtz will also remain as CFO. Carragher, currently lead director of Nucryst, will assume the role of chairman.

Boston (Jan. 15)-PAREXEL International, a biopharmaceutical services organization, appointed Josephine Hoppe as corporate vice-president and chief information officer. Hoppe is responsible for managing the company's information technology initiatives.

Cincinnati, OH (Jan. 15)-The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) announced the retirement of Mariano Martin, global customer business development officer, effective June 30, 2009. He will step down on Feb. 1, 2009, when he will focus on working closely with his successor to ensure a smooth transition. Robert L. Fregolle, Jr., currently vice-president of customer business development for P&G Asia, will succeed Martin as global customer business development officer, effective February 1, 2009. Fregolle will report to Werner Geissler, vice-chairman of global operations.

Rockville, MD (Jan. 15)-The US Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention elected Duane M. Kirking as the new chairman of its board of trustees. He succeeds John W. Mauger, who has served as chairman since March 2005.