PHARMACY

Merck, Idera team up on $400 million cancer vaccine deal

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Idera Pharmaceuticals has partnered with Merck in a research and development deal targeting cancer that is reported to be worth $400 million, according to published reports.

Idera will exclusively license its DNA-based compounds, Toll-like Receptor 9 agonists IMO-2055 and IMO-2125, to Merck for use in cancer treatments. Idera will exclusively retain the rights to the drugs as a use for cancer vaccines. Merck will pay Idera $40 million upfront and up to $381 million in milestone payments as well as royalties should the products reach the market.

The drugs included in the deal include IMO-2055, which is in a phase IIa trial in patients with renal-cell carcinoma. IMO-2055 is currently in a phase Ib trial in combination with Genentech’a Avastin and Pharmaceutical’s Tarceva in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer as well as in a phase I trial in combination with chemotherapy agents in patients with difficult-to-treat solid tumors.

The other drug, IMO-2125 is in a phase I trial in patients with chronic hepatitis C who have had no success with standard treatment—an indication that will not be part of the Merck agreement.

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LG debuts home health-monitoring in a cell phone

BY Drew Buono

CALGARY, Canada The Home Health Monitoring Solution is a new handheld device developed by LG Electronics allows patients with chronic illnesses to send such information as their pulse, blood pressure and glucose levels to their physician wirelessly, according to published reports.

The goal is eventually to add the technology to cellphones, the same way photography and music capabilities have been added. The product is designed to help patients with illnesses that need constant monitoring. It could also be useful for seniors with limited mobility and for patients who live in rural areas. By constantly keeping track of someone’s medical data it would provide a greater help to the patient and physician monitoring the illness.

The first stage of tests for the three-year project will begin next month. It will involve monitoring blood pressure, pulse and temperature. Down the road, glucose levels and other blood chemistry markers will be added as features.

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Senate votes to extend current SCHIP legislation through March 2009

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill unanimously that will extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program through March 2009, according to reports. The House of Representatives plans to look at the issue before the end of the year.

This extension will end a battle for now with President Bush, who had twice vetoed the bill, including the most recent veto last week. Bush vetoed the program the second time because he felt the second version was too similar to the first and would cost too much money as well as shift children from the private marketplace to government run programs.

The bill also would stop a scheduled 10 percent pay cut for Medicare doctors for six months and provide a 0.5 percent increase instead. The health legislation costs about $6 billion, but was paid for by savings in other health programs.

The program currently covers about 6.6 million poor children.

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