Acton gains $15M in venture funds; Alnylam wins milestone

> Marlborough, MA-based Acton Pharmaceuticals has rounded up $15 million in venture funds. And Acton also announced that it has completed a licensing agreement for Aerospan (flunisolide HFA, 80 mcg) Inhalation Aerosol from Forest Laboratories. "We believe that Aerospan is an exciting opportunity, as it provides Acton with an excellent platform on which to build our organization," says founder Daniel L. Kreisler. Acton Release

> Alnylam says it has received an undisclosed milestone from Roche after the pharma giant launched a trial of a drug that uses its gene-silencing technology. Report

>Shares of Keryx jumped after the developer announced that the FDA had signed off on the trial design for its experimental treatment for hyperphosphatemia. Story

> The antibody developer f-star has raised $11.8 million in an extended Series A. The money will go toward advancing its drug development platform. Story

> OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals says its Phase II clinical trial evaluating OGX-427 when administered as a monotherapy to patients with castrate resistant prostate cancer has received grant funding. OncoGenex Release

> PerkinElmer and VWR International have inked a deal to create a joint service offering covering lab equipment. PerkinElmer Announcement

Pharma News

> Drug companies talk a lot about recouping R&D costs when pricing meds, but let's face it: Pharma is a for-profit business, usually with shareholders to satisfy. So profit is key, and profit margins are a closely watched measure. Now, thanks to Sanford Bernstein über-analyst Tim Anderson (via Pharmalot), we now know which big drugs deliver the most pretax profits to their respective companies' bottom lines. Story

> Outsourcing has been on an upswing for the past several years. Drugmakers have farmed out everything from research and manufacturing to IT and sales--and there are no signs that the move will let up this year. Eli Lilly just yesterday said it would outsource more of its R&D, and before the December holidays, AstraZeneca announced more outsourced manufacturing. Report

> We've talked a lot about Big Pharma's cost-cutting efforts: selling off or closing manufacturing plants, laying off sales reps, consolidating R&D. But the cuts aren't limited to those functions. Administrative departments are shrinking, too. Just witness the latest from GlaxoSmithKline's human resources operations. Story

> Yet another study is calling the efficacy of antidepressants into question. New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that only patients with severe depression truly benefit from the drugs. Those suffering from mild to moderate depression get little or no help from those drugs, and that help may simply be due to seeing a doctor, learning about depression, and other circumstances, the researchers conclude. Report

> Worried that the Obama administration would usher in a no-tolerance policy toward drug side effects? Well, you can rest easy now. An analysis of Obama's FDA shows that the number of new "black box" warnings dropped by almost half in 2009--to 31 from 56 in 2008. Report

> The FDA has canceled a meeting to review Eli Lilly's antidepressant Cymbalta for a new use against chronic pain, sending the company's stock downward. Story

Pharma Manufacturing News

> As reported earlier, the low potency of some H1N1 vaccines has led to product recalls and in one case the re-inoculation of individuals who received a weakened shot. Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca's MedImmune have low-potency recalls underway, and some 2,000 Ohioans who visited an H1N1 clinic were called back for a second jab because their first had been frozen in shipment. Report

> Genzyme has tapped Hospira for fill and finish of Cerezyme and Fabrazyme, helping to alleviate shortages of two key drugs. The Boston-based big biotech is still struggling to get its Allston Landing plant up to full compliance following last summer's shutdown. Story

> Worker strikes plus road and rail blockades are conspiring against Hyderabad's image as a go-to destination for drugmakers. Civil unrest is the cause, and it's making some pharmaceutical companies rethink their relocation plans. Japan's Eisai, for example, is holding off a planned investment. Report

> The biotech companies surviving recent hard times know a thing or two about managing costs and saving money. Some are capitalizing on the failure of their peers by tapping into a growing supply of used manufacturing equipment. Story

> The list of routine precautions and countermeasures against pharmaceutical cargo theft is growing. As we reported earlier, higher-cost drugs have become the targets of more sophisticated, better organized thieves. However, online monitoring services, the use of marked rather than plain white trucks to aid law enforcement, and the use of full fuel tanks with a no-stops requirement for the first 200 miles all are being used to thwart these would-be thieves, reports Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine. Story

> The December 18 recall of 6 million bottles of Tylenol arthritis caplets follows by six weeks an early-November recall of just five lots of the drug, which was announced by Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare on the Tylenol Internet site. An additional 10 days went by, until December 28, before the FDA issued its more widely seen and accessible medical alert for the contaminated pills. Report

And Finally... Cigarette smoking is a well-known risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, but new research from Johns Hopkins suggests that quitting the habit may actually raise the risk of diabetes in the short term. Release