Vital Signs: The Weekly Roundup

Here's your weekly dose of biotech and health care news in the Washington region, by Washington Post biotech reporter Kendra Marr:

* MedImmune of Gaithersburg licensed its "reverse genetics" intellectual property to The Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases of Osaka University in Japan. This method generates viruses, like influenza, from segments of DNA. As a result, manufacturers can avoid contact with highly infectious pandemic strains by just working with segments of the virus's genome. MedImmune used reverse genetics to develop this year's nasal spray flu vaccine.

* Novavax of Rockville was recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting for developing an affordable bird flu vaccine and seasonal flu vaccine. Since 2005, the company has invested more than $100 million to develop these vaccines. Novavax has pledged to invest another $150 million over the next three years to continue its vaccine development.

* Johns Hopkins Medicine chief executive Edward Miller, along with Mayo Clinic chief executive Denis Cortese, wrote an op-ed arguing that a board of directors, not Congress, should be making decisions about Medicare's payment policies. Appearing in The Chicago Tribune, the op-ed declared: "Decisions about coverage and payments are inappropriately subject to political influences and inefficiencies. Why should Congress spend time debating how much Medicare should pay for the rental of oxygen supplies? A non-political board could better fulfill the role of overseeing Medicare. The board should function like the Federal Reserve--with independent authority, but reporting to Congress."

* New York's Manhattan Institute launched Project FDA, an initiative an initiative designed to help improve the Food and Drug Administration. The project aims to create technologies and regulations to speed innovation, as well as quickly get cheaper and safer treatments into patients' hands.

* Micromet of Bethesda raised $40 million in a private placement of its common stock and warrants. The funds will be used toward further research and development and advancing clinical trials of the biotech's BiTE technology, which uses antibodies to destroy tumor cells.

* The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission praising the agency for cracking down on abusive naked short selling. Alan Eisenberg, BIO's executive vice president for emerging companies and business development, wrote: "The biotechnology industry has been and is increasingly vulnerable to investors who illegally spread false rumors in efforts to manipulate security prices. This type of illegal behavior is especially detrimental to emerging biotechnology companies whose value is so dependent on the results of their research and development efforts. For example, false rumors such as 'negative' results or even intentional mischaracterization of a clinical trial or in a particular individual could substantially drive down a biotechnology company's stock price."

* The National Cancer Institute awarded 20/20 GeneSystems a $650,000 grant under its Small Business Innovative Research program. The Rockville biotech will use the money to create tests that will determine the right personalized treatment for each breast cancer patient.

* Bethesda's Northwest Biotheraputics only had enough cash to support day-to-day operations through the end of September. But this week the Bethesda biotech was saved by a $1 million loan from SDS Capital Group. The loan will only fund the company's operations into November, so Northwest said it is still negotiating with a number of other providers for additional funding. The company needs the money to fund clinical trials and repay its debt.

* EntreMed of Rockville transferred the listing of its stock from the Nasdaq Global Market to the Nasdaq Capital Market. EntreMed's trading symbol will remain ENMD. In April, Nasdaq sent the biotech a letter saying that its stock failed to close above the $1 minimum closing bid for 30 consecutive days, which is required for listing on the Global Market.

* Emergent BioSolutions of Rockville continues to be the government's sole anthrax vaccine supplier. It signed a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to supply the Strategic National Stockpile with an additional 14.5 million doses of BioThrax for $364 million, with the potential to receive as much as $404 million.

* Two rival biotechs -- Emergent BioSolutions of Rockville and PharmAthene of Annapolis -- received separate federal development contracts to build new anthrax vaccines. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, along with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, awarded Emergent up to $29.7 million to develop an improved form of BioThrax that requires fewer injections but still needs to be refrigerated. The institute also awarded PharmAthene up to $83.9 million to create a genetically modified anthrax vaccine that can be stored at room temperature and induce immunity in just one or two doses.

By Dan Beyers  |  October 3, 2008; 12:35 PM ET  | Category:  Vital Signs
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Good article on MedImmune working with H5N1 or other influeza's safely. The reverse engineering holds promis of creating a vaccine before a pandemic.

US Dept of HHS has its next free interactive webanar on October 29th at 1pm EDT (Source:

Please post more news about H5N1 research.


Posted by: Kobie | October 3, 2008 1:34 PM

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