Forest Labs pays Almirall $75M upfront for asthma collaboration; Ark shares dive after EMA rejects brain cancer drug;

> Forest Laboratories is paying Spain's Almirall a $75 million upfront fee to collaborate on the development of a new asthma therapy. Researchers from the two groups will work together to advance LAS100977 in combination with a corticosteroid using Almirall's Genuair inhaler. "LAS100977 has shown very encouraging results in the completed Phase II studies, and we believe it will be a very competitive entrant in this large drug class," says Forest Chairman and CEO Howard Solomon in a statement. Forest Release

> Shares of the U.K.'s Ark Therapeutics plunged 43 percent after investors got wind of the news that the European Medicines Agency had rejected its brain cancer drug Cerepro. Regulators at the agency concluded that the risks posed by the gene therapy--which would have been the first of its kind in Europe--outweighed its potential benefits. Story

> Canada's Cardiome Pharma announced that the IV vernakalant was superior to Amiodarone in a late-stage trial. That's also good news for Merck, which licensed the drug earlier this year in a $260 million pact. Story

> Canada's BioMS has formally dumped its late-stage MS drug dirucotide, which had failed a clinical trial, and instead decided to take a big stake in Spectral Diagnostics. BioMS joined an investment syndicate which injected $14 million into Spectral Diagnostics to advance Toraymyxin, a treatment for severe sepsis. Report

>  Danaher Corp. is buying the Genetix Group in a deal valued at $102 million. Genetix makes software researchers use to view digital images of cells. Story

> Neurobiological Technologies announced today that it filed a Certificate of Dissolution with the Secretary of State of the State of Delaware on December 17. Neurobiological Release

Pharma News

> Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer (photo) is getting hit from all sides. Investors have criticized him, the press has critiqued his performance, and now company founder Sheridan Snyder says Termeer ought to step down, The Street reports. Most worrisome to Snyder, the publication says, are the shortages of Genzyme drugs spawned when the company's manufacturing plant near Boston failed an FDA inspection. Report

> Some European customers are negotiating to return millions of unused doses of H1N1 vaccine to four suppliers, threatening the companies' huge revenue boost from the global pandemic. Apparently, governments had expected people to turn out in big numbers for the shot, but that isn't happening--and so the buyers want their money back. Story

> The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has made sure that Merck's Singulair team enjoys its weekend. The PTO reversed its tentative rejection of key claims in the company's patent for the blockbuster allergy and asthma treatment. And the patent regulator says it's done with re-examining Singulair's patent coverage. Story

> The conflicts-of-interest police have turned their attention to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report saying that CDC did a poor job of screening its medical experts for financial conflicts when it engaged them for advice on vaccine safety, the New York Times reports. Report

> GlaxoSmithKline is considering three U.K. sites for its first biopharmaceutical factory in the country, a move that would create hundreds of jobs--but not until after 2013. Story

> Celgene is one step closer to getting its cancer drug Revlimid widely adopted as a maintenance treatment for multiple myeloma. Initial results from a new trial showed that it delayed disease progression in patients who had had stem cell transplants, Reuters reports. Currently the drug is FDA-approved for use in combination with dexamethasone, in patients who have already failed on another treatment. Report

And Finally... Scientists in the Netherlands are developing a new generation of foods that make people feel full by releasing anti-hunger aromas during chewing. Story