Bayer narrows U.K. distribution channel; Cutting costs, Piramal to shut plant down;

> Bayer has joined the ranks of firms switching to restrictive distribution arrangements in the U.K.; around 30 of Bayer's drugs wll now be sold only through three wholesalers. Report

> India's Piramal Healthcare said it would shutter one of its U.K. manufacturing facilities to control costs, sending its stock tumbling. Report

> Astellas Pharma apointed Seigo Kashii as president and CEO of its North American subsidiary; the previous chief, Yoshihiko Hatanaka, is moving to Japan as chief strategy officer and CFO of the parent company. Release

> A Citi Investment Research analyst upgraded Abbott Laboratories stock to "Hold" from "Sell."  Report

> Elan and Wyeth are eliminating the highest dose of their Alzheimer's drug bepineuzumab from two phase III studies after safety monitors concluded that patients were at risk of brain swelling. Report

> Novartis Animal Health launched Zolvix, a new de-worming product for sheep, after five years of joint development with farmers and vets. Release

> Wyeth has filed for FDA approval of its improved version of Prevnar for infants and plans to seek expanded authority next year to use it to protect adults. Report

> Officials are reporting that the number of children infected with Hib, or Haemophilus influenzae type b, continue to rise due to a shortage of Merck's childhood vaccine. Report

> Teva Pharmaceutical Industries got the FDA nod--and 180 days of marketing exclusivity--for its version of Bayer's low-dose birth-control pill Yaz, expected to be launched under subsidiary Barr Pharmaceuticals' authorized-generic deal with Bayer. Release

> Roche said its new LightCycler test for the detection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is now available with the CE Mark, allowing it to be sold for clinical use in the European Union. Release

> Kevin Giese, chief executive of BioMS Medical, says that the economic crisis is clearly taking its toll on biotech companies in Canada. "A lot of them are in desperate straits," he tells the National Post. Report

> Shares of Novavax got a much-needed boost yesterday when it announced that a subsidiary of India's Cadila is taking an $11 million stake in the vaccine company and signing on to a new joint venture. Report

> Google is launching a new venture arm to back companies developing interesting new technology--and biotechnology ventures are on its list of target investments. Report

> TorreyPines Therapeutics has gone virtual. After two earlier restructurings over the past year, the developer announced that it will eliminate all remaining jobs at the company, with the exception of CEO Evelyn Graham, CFO Craig Johnson and Vice President and General Counsel Paul Schneider. Report

> Atlanta-based Altea Therapeutics has inked a $46 million deal with Eli Lilly and Amylin Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialize a daily transdermal patch delivering sustained levels of Byetta (exenatide). Report

And Finally... An analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that starting treatment earlier in the course of HIV disease is likely to extend patients' lives. But an accompanying editorial argues that the findings aren't definitive and won't be enough to close the book on the debate. Report