Creating new ways to look at small things – single molecules – could add up to big business for Agilent Technologies. The company intends to expand its nanomeasurement market share through its November acquisition of Tempe, Ariz.-based Molecular Imaging Corp., which develops and manufactures atomic force microscopes (AFMs). AFM applications for drug discovery include screening compounds for drug affinities and watching molecules in live cells. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
NimbleGen Systems Inc. recently announced the closing of a private venture financing round in the amount of $8.2 million, an effort led by Cargill Ventures of Minneapolis, Minn., and Skyline Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif. That brings NimbleGen—a provider of flexible high-density microarray products and services for genetic analysis—to a total of $50 million raised since its founding in 1999.
Discovery Partners International (DPI) recently announced that discussions between it and Pfizer over a potential new collaboration had terminated, and that it will be reducing staff and consolidating operations as a result. The talks had been aimed at forging a new agreement to replace DPI’s previous long-standing collaboration with Pfizer, which expired on January 5 and which had brought DPI $92 million in revenues between 2002 and 2005, including $2.9 million during the fourth quarter of 2005. Pfizer could not be reached for comment on why they ended the talks, but DPI’s recently appointed acting CEO, Dr. Michael C. Venuti, speculates that his company was simply outbid by firms outside of the United States—probably in China, India or Eastern Europe.
Ciphergen Biosystems Inc. announced a research and collaboration agreement in liver disease with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). The primary goal of the work will be to develop a diagnostic blood test that can measure the progress of liver disease and thus reduce the need for painful and costly biopsies of the liver in hepatitis C patients. But the work has a longer-term goal that could have a huge impact on developing better drugs for treating such patients.
PIramed Limited, a privately owned biotechnology company, has teamed up South San Francisco, Calif.-based Genentech to develop a new class of anti-cancer drugs. The drugs target PI 3-kinase, a key intracellular signaling enzyme involved in a broad range of cancers that plays key roles in cell cycle regulation, proliferation, survival, apoptosis and motility.
Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Institute of Biotechnology in Vilnius, Lithuania, and the Institute of Organic Chemistry in Aachen, Germany, have developed a new technique using DNA methyltransferases that will allow them to modify specific sequences within a DNA molecule. The approach, which helps reveal the impact of biochemical alterations to DNA, could have far-reaching implications for DNA-based medical diagnosis and nanobiotechnology, according to HHMI, and may become a therapeutic modality in and of itself, as well.
In April 2005, the FDA released a concept paper that outlined specific strategies for the codevelopment of drugs and diagnostic devices. In the first quarter of this year, the agency expects to release a codevelopment guidance document that incorporates feedback from the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, Executive Editor Randall C Willis spoke with one of the authors of the concept paper, Dr. Felix Frueh, associate director of genomics at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Regulation (CDER).
Gene Logic Inc. announced last month that it had entered into a drug repositioning and development agreement with Roche that will seek to find alternative therapeutic uses for drug candidates that have failed in late stage trials for their initial indications. All compounds that are part of the deal successfully passed Phase I but were discontinued in Phase II or Phase III trials.
At the recent Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, researchers at Biogen Idec and Yale University Medical School described a new method that may slow and possibly reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is one of a handful of neurodegenerative disorders that has seen a dramatic increase in prevalence as Western populations age.
Astex Therapeutics announced in early December a new strategic alliance with Novartis focused on the research, development and commercialization of novel cell cycle control drugs for the treatment of cancers and other human diseases. The agreement grants Novartis a worldwide license to Astex’s novel oral cell cycle inhibitor, AT9311, currently completing IND-enabling preclinical studies, and an option for a global license to Astex’s parenteral cell cycle inhibitor, AT7519, currently in Phase 1 clinical trials. AT7519 and AT9311 were both discovered using Astex’s proprietary fragment-based drug discovery platform, Pyramid.
Cell Genesys Inc. and Genzyme Corp. recently announced that Genzyme acquired Cell Genesys’ manufacturing operation in San Diego to support the growth of Genzyme’s gene therapy programs. Under the terms of the agreement, Genzyme will pay Cell Genesys $3.2 million in cash for the assets contained in the 47,000 square-foot leased facilities. Most of the approximately 40 employees formerly employed by Cell Genesys have become Genzyme employees.
Tripos Inc. and InforSense recently announced an alliance whereby Tripos’ discovery informatics tools and software portfolio will be intergrated with the InforSense KDE workflow-based integrative informatics platform. The alliance continues both companies’ work to provide drug discovery researchers with a streamlined approach to integrating data sets from disparate tools and software via a single workflow tool. In conjunction with the alliance, Tripos joins InforSense’s Open Workflow Partner Network (OWPN) while InforSense joins the Tripos alliance program as a software partner.
Using a model that has worked well for the company in the past, Accelrys announced late last year the formation of its Acclerys NanoBiology Initiative, which aims to accelerate the company’s development of software tools related to nanotechnology in the areas of biological research, diagnostics, biosensing, drug deleivery and biomaterial design.
Late last year, SRI International, an independent nonprofit research and development organization, launched its new Center of Excellence in Computational Biology, which aims to conduct collaborative research in symbolic systems biology, synthetic biology and bioinformatics to advance knowledge of biological systems and accelerate drug discovery and development.