Ligand gets milestone; Texas firm launches experiments to space;

> Taiwan Vice President Vincent Siew said today that the biotech industry could play a critical role in the company's economic future. Biotech is one of six industries that Taiwan's government may grant stimulus funding. Report

> Ligand Pharmaceuticals Incorporated announced today that it has received $2 million in milestone payments from N. V. Organon, a subsidiary of Merck, stemming from its research collaboration that is due to expire at the end of December. Release

> Epiphany Biosciences announced results from its Phase IIb dose-ranging study of EPB-348 (valomaciclovir) in patients with shingles infection. At two grams, the drug met its primary endpoint of non-inferiority to valacyclovir. Valomaciclovir (EPB-348) was also non-inferior to valacyclovir in the secondary endpoints of time to complete pain resolution, time to rash resolution and time to cessation of new lesion formation. Epiphany release

> Seattle biotechnology firm Cell Therapeutics Inc. can pursue claims for nearly $23 million against a former consultant, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling of a judge in Seattle and created a new interpretation of law surrounding fraud cases brought on behalf of the government. Report

> The Almac Group has completed a 67,000 square foot expansion to their North Carolina facility in Durham, which now houses both the Clinical Services and Diagnostics Divisions. Almac release

Pharma News

> That AARP drug-price study didn't just inspire House lawmakers to stand firm on their healthcare reform bill, it's also touched off calls for a Government Accountability Office investigation. Article

> Merck may be planning to shutter some facilities as it absorbs Schering-Plough. But the U.S.-based drugmaker is also scouting sites for a "major new facility," a U.K. business publication reports. Merck has hired London real estate agents to scout for 80,000 to 100,000 square feet of space, Business Weekly says, with Cambridge as one leading contender. Article

> Yet another U.S. drugmaker is making eyes at Japan. Today, Pfizer said it may storm the generics market there beginning in 2011, as part of an overall effort to diversify. Pfizer news

> Britain's healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog strikes again. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence proclaimed Bayer's Nexavar too expensive for use in liver cancer patients on the National Health Service, despite Bayer's four-for-the-price-of-three offer. Report

> While AstraZeneca preps for its first Seroquel liability trials at the state level, federal lawsuits are coming closer to court as well. Report

Vaccine News

> The GAVI Alliance--a Geneva-based public-private partnership aimed at improving health in the world's poorest countries--touted the news this week that millions of more children would be able to receive vaccines next year thanks to increased competition among drugmakers that produce five-in-one shots, known as the pentavalent vaccine. GAVI report

> With one segment of British society fearful of the potential side effects of a new swine flu vaccine and another large group shrugging off the pandemic as much ado about nothing, more than half of the island's population is saying no to the shot. And it's not solely a British phenomenon. A new poll from CNN/Opinion Research reveals that 55 percent of American adults will shun the vaccine. Article

And Finally... A NASA space shuttle is carrying a series of experiments being conducted by Astrogenetix to discover vaccines against a number of diseases--including those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus microbes--by using the microgravity environment in space. Article