J&J restructuring claims up to 8,000 jobs; Rigel pushes failed drug into Phase III; Osiris pockets $15M milestone;

> As 2009 winds down, the pace of pharma job cuts is picking up. Today, it's Johnson & Johnson announcing a sweeping restructuring plan, one that will slash up to 7 percent of its global workforce, or 8,000 jobs. In the process, the company aims to save $1.7 billion in annual expenses by 2011, with $800 million to $900 million in savings for 2010. Article

> Rigel Pharmaceuticals says that it plans to push ahead with a late-stage study of the arthritis drug R788 despite a failed mid-stage trial. And Rigel executives add that they also expect to sign up a partner on the program before the trial begins. Story

> Xoma is pocketing an $8 million fee from Kaketsuken on the signing of a new antibody discovery deal. Report

> Osiris Therapeutics won a $15 million milestone payment from its deal to sell Osteocell to NuVasive. Report

> Spain's Zeltia, which won EU approval for Yondelis yesterday, obtained an orphan drug designation for a new drug that treats progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain. Story

> The FDA has rejected Merck's application to market a new cholesterol drug that combines Pfizer's Lipitor with Zetia. Regulators are seeking more data on the drug's stability as well as on manufacturing. Story

Pharma News

> What to do when the FDA has cracked down on your U.S. drug production? Perhaps move manufacturing to India. That's what Caraco Pharmaceuticals is considering as it works to resolve the agency's concerns about a U.S. plant, according to the Economic Times. Report

> Bright lights are bearing down on the financial ties between doctors and drugmakers, and both sides are primping for the hot spots. Today, you can get a peek at two of those efforts, one from each side of the divide. Report

> Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is either a thorn in pharma's side, or just extremely vocal about his dealings with drugmakers. Report

> The Plavix case stops here. That's what the U.S. Supreme Court has decided, refusing to consider a last-ditch patent challenge from Canadian generics maker Apotex. Now, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis only have to worry about the U.S. Patent Office interfering with their multibillion-dollar drug's market exclusivity. Plavix article

Research News

> A group of biomedical engineers believe they may have solved one of the thorniest issues involved in repairing spinal damage. They created an enzyme--chondroitinase ABC--that can eat through scar tissue, allowing the injured nerve to repair itself and heal the spine. Report

> Washington University's Younan Xia has been attracting considerable attention for his research work on microcapsules that can precisely deliver a drug payload right where it's needed. Article

> A multi-disciplinary team of European scientists has developed a new therapy that they say shows a remarkable ability in the lab to destroy the skeletons of leukemia cells. And it also appears to be effective in adults who have failed to respond to a standard therapeutic approach. Report

> MIT Technology Review has taken a close-up snapshot of the science behind Acucela's clinical-stage therapy for macular degeneration. Researchers for the developer are zeroing in on a photopigment that leaks into nearby eye tissue. News

And Finally... A genetic variation linked to lower levels of a brain protein needed for memory retention may help explain why some people make bad drivers. Story