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AstraZeneca Puts Money in Pediatric Drug Maker Verus Pharmaceuticals

On Sept. 24, privately held San Diego pediatric drug maker Verus Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it had signed a deal with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca worth up to $310 million.

The agreement gave London-based AstraZeneca the North American rights to market asthma controller Captisol, a medication taken by patients during an asthma attack, and a customized version of eFlow, a delivery device for use with both medications, along with intellectual property rights and related assets.

Under terms of the agreement, Verus would receive an upfront payment of $30 million, development expense reimbursements and as much as $280 million on milestone payments.

“The beauty of the deal for us is it clearly validates our strategy of meeting unmet needs,” said Robert Keith, president and chief operating officer of Verus. “It gives us great confidence with respect to the other two emerging products.”

Verus said it will refocus its time and resources on two emerging pediatric drugs in an area of unmet needs associated with related atopic diseases, or diseases of severe allergies, and conditions.

Keith declined to provide further details about its emerging programs, but said Verus was especially excited about its pediatric drug pipeline.

“Our intent is to take these two programs forward and commercialize them ourselves,” he said. “If someone comes knocking on our door with an intent to buy we’ll make a good business decision with that as well.”

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Cytori Awarded NIH Grant For Regenerative Medicine:

The National Institutes of Health awarded San Diego’s Cytori Therapeutics Inc. a $250,000 grant to develop fat-derived regenerative cells to treat vascular disease, Cytori said Sept. 19.

Regenerative cells within fat tissue, known as adipose tissue, include adult stem cells and other cell types that have been shown to increase blood flow in and around damaged and oxygen-deprived tissues. The cells have shown potential promise for treating vascular conditions such as peripheral arterial disease, atherosclerosis and critical limb ischemia.

Successful completion of the new grant may qualify Cytori for additional funding at a higher level, according to John Fraser, Cytori principal scientist.

The company’s StemSource Cell Bank is being commercialized in Japan to hospitals and clinics to enable regenerative cell banking. The company is also working to determine the market for its real-time regenerative cell therapy in conjunction with breast reconstruction surgery, cardiovascular disease and other unmet medical needs.

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MicroIslet Obtains $1 Million Working Capital Loan:

MicroIslet Inc., an early stage biotechnology company focused on transplant therapy for people with type 1 diabetes, said Sept. 21 that investor Peter Knobel has agreed to lend the company $1 million in cash.

The proceeds of the loan will be used to further advance the company toward human clinical studies, according to Ronald Katz, chairman of the board of MicroIslet.

The company also issued a five-year warrant to Knobel allowing purchase for cash up to 400,000 shares of common stock, at an exercise price of 40 cents per share.

MicroIslet is traded over-the-counter under the symbol MIIS.

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Amylin Shares Rise On Diabetes Claim:

Shares of Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. rode high Sept. 21 after the San Diego biotechnology company cited a study claiming its diabetes drug Byetta was more effective than Lantus, a once-a-day insulin therapy marketed by Sanofi-Aventis.

Amylin and partner Eli Lilly and Co. said a yearlong study demonstrated Byetta was more effective in treating type 2 diabetes and that patients experienced weight loss. Patients taking Lantus gained weight, the companies said.

Shares, traded as AMLN on Nasdaq, rose $1.61, or 3.1 percent, to $49.60 on Sept. 21 following the news.

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Nanogen Announces Job Cuts Following Divestiture Of Microarray Unit:

Following Nanogen Inc.’s Sept. 17 announcement that it would evaluate selling or closing its microarray business as part of an aggressive plan to achieve profitability, the company said it would reduce its microarray work force by 13 employees, 4 percent of its total work force.

Nanogen said it expected to incur $335,000 in severance & #8209;related expenses for the reductions, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Sept. 17, the company said it was exploring options regarding its microarray business, which tests for genetic mutations, with the goal of reaching profitability “faster and with greater predictability.” The move was expected to save the company at least $15 million a year.

The company lost $49.1 million on revenues of $26.9 million last fiscal year. In 2005, it lost $96.5 million on revenues of $12.5 million.


Send biotechnology industry related news to Heather Chambers,

hchambers@sdbj.com

, or call (858) 277-6359, ext. 3125.

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