Unigene slashes staff in restructuring; Novartis optimistic about cancer drug apps;

> Unigene Laboratories is lopping off a third of its workforce in a restructuring. Unigene is also temporarily suspending some manufacturing work, saying that it has sufficient inventory of calcitonin and enzyme to support Fortical. "This decision will allow us to better focus on our current needs while operating more efficiently and significantly reducing our burn rate," said Warren Levy, CEO of the Boonton, NJ-based company. Unigene release

> Novartis oncology chief David Epstein has bullishly forecasted some rapid gains for the pharma company's cancer drug pipeline, telling Reuters that two new drug approval applications are in the works, with multibillion-dollar expectations for Tasigna. Novartis expects to win approval for using Tasigna as a first-line leukemia therapy, with the cancer therapy replacing lost revenue from Gleevec. "I think the two drugs can beat $5 billion in combined sales," said Epstein. Story

> Looking to reinvigorate its cancer program, Isis Pharmaceuticals says that it reacquired the rights to an oncology program from Eli Lilly. In the deal, Lilly retained rights to buy back the therapy ahead of late-stage trials. Report

Pharma News

> In a letter to Sen. Sam Brownback of (R-KA), FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg expressed doubts that the FDA could properly regulate or guarantee the safety of drugs imported from other countries. Report

> Three years after the Vioxx safety debacle, the FDA has yet to improve its drug safety oversight, according to Government Accountability Office findings. GAO report

> Tamiflu provides only mild protection against complications resulting from influenza. That's according to the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent group that analyzed 20 studies of the drug. Article

> AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb will be facing the biggest patent losses over the next few years, according to a report by Bernstein Research analyst Dr. Tim Anderson. He says the results of generic competition could have an even bigger impact on Pharma's bottom line than Wall Street expects. Report

Manufacturing News

> Burkholderia cepacia, a common pathogen, is "a clear and present danger" in pharmaceutical manufacturing, says Lynn Torbeck, a statistics-minded pharmaceutical consultant currently working with the FDA on CDER's Drug Recall Root Cause Research Project. Report

> Attempting to halt a medication-shortage finger-pointing game, a U.K. trade group is urging government action. Some 40 "well known" drugs are "officially acknowledged" to be in short supply, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain says in an announcement. Article

> China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) is investigating quality concerns at a Simcere Pharmaceutical Group (NYSE: SCR) plant in Nanjing. Production operations were suspended by the drugmaker's subsidiary, Jiangsu Yanshen Biological Technology, at the end of November. Report

> When it comes to drugs, transport costs are a drop in the bucket compared with product value. Article

> A gas leak at a pharmaceutical plant in India has claimed two lives and sickened six others. The accident took place on Sunday at a Rinilife Science plant in Indore, reports CNN's Indian affiliate IBN Live. Report

And Finally... New research indicates that beer and coffee may contain some of the best active ingredients in the fight to prevent prostate cancer. Report | Story

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