PHARMACY

Sepragen, Neugenesis partner on rapid flu response

BY Drew Buono

BURLINGAME and HAYWARD, Calif. The biotech companies Sepragen and Neugenesis are teaming up to develop a platform for monoclonal antibody and influenza vaccine production that is rapid, scalable and flexible enough to respond to a potential pandemic, according to published reports.

The project hopes to combine Sepragen’s proprietary solid phase bioreactor system with Neugenesis’ Neurospora-based expression technology and create a new platform that is more efficient and less expensive than currently available production methods.

Traditionally, influenza vaccines have been produced using fertilized hen’s eggs, in which the albumin serves as a rich growth medium. More recently, cell culture based methods have been developed to produce vaccines that do not have the allergenic potential of egg-derived products. Both methods are expensive and time consuming.

In contrast, Neugenesis’ system uses recombinant strains of the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa that can be modified to express key influenza virus antigens such as the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins. These proteins can then be harvested, processed and used to directly obtain an immune response.

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PHARMACY

Schering-Plough posts quarterly loss from purchase of Organon

BY Drew Buono

KENILWORTH, N.J. Schering-Plough today released its first-quarter results for 2008, according to published reports. The drugmaker reported a net income of $253 million, down from $543 million during the first quarter of 2007, mostly due to the acquisition of the biotech company Organon BioSciences.

Sales though rose by 56 percent to $4.66 billion. Its rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade’s sales rose by 36 percent to $507 million.

Vytorin and another cholesterol treatment drug Zetia, which Schering markets through a joint venture with Merck saw sales of both drugs combined rise 6 percent to $1.2 billion during the quarter. But they fell 5 percent in the United States amid the widely publicized failure of Vytorin to cut plaque in neck arteries in a study for which results were presented in January.

Merck said Monday it expects its revenue from the drugs to drop by $700 million over the rest of 2008.

Chief executive officer Fred Hassan said the company is on track with its plan to cut annual costs by $1.5 billion by 2012, announced earlier this month. About 10 percent of its 55,000 jobs are to be cut.

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Genzyme plans expansion in China

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Genzyme has announced that it will build a research and development center in Beijing as part of its global expansion, according to published reports.

The company expects the facility to open in 2010 and cost them about $90 million. It will be a 200,000 square-foot facility, which will be able to accommodate 350 employees.

Genzyme said it already has 25 employees working in offices in Beijing and Shanghai and has a pilot program for its cell therapy MACI at Beijing Wujing Hospital.

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