Week of Dec. 5, 2011: Merck Establishes New MSD R&D Asia Headquarters; Astellas Adds Two Senior Executives at Agensys; and More

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Merck Establishes New MSD R&D Asia Headquarters; Astellas Adds Two Senior Executives at Agensys; and More.

Company Notes

Agilent Technologies has agreed to acquire BioSystem Development, a provider of products and services used in protein purification and characterization.

Aveo Pharmaceuticals and Boehringer Ingelheim have entered into an agreement for large-scale process development and clinical manufacturing of ficlatuzumab, Aveo’s HGF inhibitory antibody that is currently in Phase II clinical development for treating nonsmall cell lung cancer. Boehringer Ingelheim will produce ficlatuzumab for clinical trials at its biopharmaceutical site in Fremont, California. Aveo retains all rights to the development and commercialization of ficlatuzumab. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has entered into a clinical collaboration agreement with Tibotec Pharmaceuticals, part of Johnson & Johnson’sJanssen, to evaluate the use of daclatasvir (BMS-790052), BMS’s investigational NS5A replication complex inhibitor, in combination with Tibotec Pharmaceuticals’ investigational NS3 protease inhibitor, TMC435, for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus.

Eisai’s research subsidiary, H3 Biomedicine, has opened a new 24,000-ft2 research facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company plans to expand its laboratory space and workforce to approximately 70 staff members. Eisai has pledged to provide H3 Biomedicine with up to $200 million in research funding.

Merck & Co. has established an Asia R&D headquarters for drug discovery and development in Beijing, China. The new facility is part of a $1.5-billion commitment the company has made to invest in R&D in China during the next five years. The facility will consist of 47,000 m2 (505,903.789 ft2) of office and laboratory space. The first phase of construction, scheduled to be completed by 2014, will provide capacity for approximately 600 employees working in the areas of drug discovery, translational research, clinical development, regulatory affairs, and external scientific research programs.

Momenta Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company specializing in the characterization and engineering of complex drugs, has signed an agreement to acquire the sialic switch assets of Virdante Pharmaceuticals, including intellectual property and cell lines, relating to the sialylation of intravenous immunoglobulin and other proteins. Momenta made an upfront payment of $4.5 million and may make additional contingent milestone payments, which, if all development and regulatory milestones are achieved, will total $51.5 million.

Pfizer has completed its acquisition of the biotechnology company Excaliard Pharmaceuticals. While specific financial terms were not disclosed, Pfizer provided Excaliard’s shareholders, which include Isis Pharmaceuticals, Alta Partners, ProQuest Investments, and RiverVest Venture Partners, an upfront payment and will make contingent payments if certain milestones are achieved in the future.


In other news, Pfizer has completed its previously announced acquisition of Ferrosan Consumer Health’s business, which includes dietary supplements and lifestyle products.

Q Chip, a developer of sustained-release drug depots, has signed an agreement with an undisclosed speciality pharmaceutical company to undertake the development of a sustained-release depot of an undisclosed therapeutic peptide. All the costs of preclinical and clinical development will be borne by Q Chip’s partner. In addition, Q Chip will receive success-based payments, and will provide the manufactured product after regulatory approval.

Roche, PTC Therapeutics, and the SMA Foundation, have entered into a licensing agreement for PTC’s Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) program. SMA is a genetic neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness. Under the terms of the agreement, Roche gains an exclusive worldwide license to PTC’s SMA program, which includes three compounds currently in preclinical development, as well as potential back-up compounds. PTC receives $30 million as an upfront payment, and up to $460 million upon successful completion of certain development and commercialization milestones, and up to double-digit royalties on commercial sales. Development will be overseen by a joint steering committee comprised of members from Roche, PTC, and the SMA Foundation.

Takeda Pharmaceutical plans to establish a vaccine business division, effective Jan. 1, 2012. The company also announced the appointment of Rajeev Venkayya as its leader of the division, effective Jan. 15, 2012.

Unigene Laboratories, a provider of drug-delivery and manufacturing technologies for peptides, has terminated its exclusive worldwide license agreement and related development services and clinical-supply agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pertaining to an oral formulation of a recombinantly produced parathyroid hormone (PTH) analog for the treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. The termination of these agreements followed notification by GSK of its decision not to proceed based on its internal evaluation criteria. As a result, Unigene regains the exclusive worldwide rights to its oral PTH program with no financial obligations to GSK.

People Notes

Agensys, a subsidiary of Astellas has appointed Frank P. Hudson as vice-president of finance. He was previously vice-president of finance for Mannkind. The company has also named Wolfgang Noe vice-president of process sciences and manufacturing. Noe joins Agensys from Biogen-Idec, where he most recently served as vice-president of strategic development and technical alliances.