FDA questions effectiveness of Actelion's Zavesca; Novo Nordisk, Sweden's Combine to collaborate on autoimmune diseases;

> Questions about effectiveness are the main issue surrounding Actelion's bid to sell a drug for treating a rare disease affecting the brain, U.S. drug reviewers said in documents released on Friday. Report

> Novo Nordisk and the Swedish university consortium Combine announced the formation of a research collaboration in the field of autoimmune diseases. Release

> Cephalon has announced that effective Feb. 5, 2010, Robert Roche, Jr., EVP of worldwide pharmaceutical operations, will resign his position with the company to pursue other longstanding interests. Release

> Ligand Pharmaceuticals has received a $1 million milestone payment from N.V. Organon, a subsidiary of Merck, stemming from its research collaboration that expired on December 31, 2009. The payment is a result of achieving a discovery milestone. In total, Ligand has earned $4 million from this collaboration over the past few months. Release

> Forest Laboratories and Almirall have announced positive top-line results from ACCORD COPD I, a three-month Phase III study comparing aclidinium 200ug and 400ug BID versus placebo. Release

> Pharminox, a U.K.-based cancer drug discovery and development company, today announced that it has appointed Iain Ross as non-executive chairman. Ross takes over from Dr. Mario Polywka, who is stepping down as chairman due to other commitments, but will remain on the board in a non-executive capacity. Release

> Forbes Medi-Tech has received a Nasdaq staff deficiency letter indicating that it doesn't meet the NASDAQ initial listing standard set forth in Listing Rule 5505. Unless Forbes requests an appeal, the company's common shares will be suspended at the opening of business Jan. 15. Release

> The Jiangsu Government's Science and Technology Department has announced a $1.8 million grant--the Jiangsu Technological Achievements Transformational Grant--to support the research and development of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell technologies. The grant recipient and administrator, Shenzhen Beike Biotechnology, is working with Jiangsu University and Nanjing University's Drum Tower Hospital to fulfill the grant's requirements. Release

Pharma News

> Five years, twice the revenue. That's what Teva Pharmaceutical Industries chief Shlomo Yanai is predicting: By 2015 his feisty generics company can more than double its annual sales to $31 billion. That would make it big enough to become one of the Top 10 drugmakers worldwide--on the 2008-revenue ranking at least. Story

> It's going to be a grim first quarter for sales reps at the new Merck. The company is planning to cut more than 500 sales jobs, as disclosed to the state of New Jersey. The layoffs started before the ball dropped on 2009 and will continue through the end of March. Report

> Another day, another vaccine-order cancellation. This time, it's Novartis bearing the brunt of France's new thinking on H1N1 flu vaccinations. The French government has cancelled orders for 7 million doses--almost half the amount it initially requested from Novartis. Report

> Once again, a judge has nipped Seroquel litigation in the bud. A Delaware state court judge dismissed two more lawsuits, saying that the plaintiffs couldn't prove via medical testimony that the drug contributed to their developing diabetes, Pharmalot reports. That makes eight lawsuits dismissed. No Seroquel lawsuit has made it to trial. Report

And Finally... A cocktail of nutrients intended to build brain synapses improved memory in a clinical trial of patients with mild Alzheimer's disease, researchers said, but outside experts discounted the study, suggesting its results actually showed no benefit. Report