Celtic Pharma raises $100M for fund; Centocor receives FDA response on ustekinumab;

> The private equity firm Celtic Pharma has raised $100 million (£67m) for a new fund that will invest in drug and diagnostic development companies. Report

> Centocor, a Johnson & Johnson company, said the FDA has issued a Complete Response letter for its BLA for ustekinumab, a biologic which treats chronic moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. The agency wants additional information, including a proposal to manage the risks of the drug. However, the FDA will not require any additional trials. Release

> AstraZeneca and MAP Pharma announced an exclusive worldwide agreement to develop and commercialise Unit Dose Budesonide, or UDB, a potential treatment for asthma currently in Phase III clinical development. Release

> Cornerstone Pharmaceuticals, a drug development company focused on cancer bioenergetics, has raised $6 million in new angel funding. It has offices in both Stony Brook, NY and Cranbury, NJ. Report

> Novocell is expected to announce this morning that it has signed a two-year collaboration with Pfizer giving the drug-making giant access to the tiny biotech's expertise at turning human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing pancreas cells. Report

> An outbreak of bird flu at a Hong Kong poultry farm is raising concerns as some of the birds that died had been vaccinated against the virus. Report

> A U.S. and Swiss biotech company have formed a research collaboration to focus on new therapeutic cancer vaccines. Worcester, MA-based Generex and Switzerland's Pevion Biotech plan to initially concentrate their work on oncogenes over-expressed in breast, ovarian, prostate, stomach and colon cancer, as well as other malignancies. Report

> A research team at the University of Maryland has developed a universal flu vaccine that can also protect birds and mammals from avian flu. Report

> Researchers have finally figured out why a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine used in 1966 to innoculate children against the infection failed and caused severe respiratory disease. Report

> The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is offering a $150,000 reward to researchers willing to tackle a key challenge in their R&D work. And the right answer could be worth a bonus of more than a million dollars along with a fresh supply of research funds. Report

> Cutting drug prices to consumers is not enough to encourage greater compliance by patients on chronic medication, a new US study has reported. Report

> Auxilium Pharmaceuticals has scored a rich partnership pact with Pfizer for Xiaflex, a late-stage drug for the treatment of Dupuytren's contracture and Peyronie's disease. Malvern, PA-based Auxilium nets $75 million upfront, $410 million in potential development, regulatory and sales milestones. Report

> Developers with experimental diabetes drugs in the pipeline will have to go an extra mile in R&D to win an FDA approval. In a move sure to add a significant amount of expense to the development process, the FDA is mandating more screening of potential heart risks. Report

> Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has acquired the U.K.-based biotech company Thiakis Limited for an upfront payment of $30 million. Report

> San Diego-based Ligand Pharmaceuticals will pocket a $5 million upfront fee and up to $158 million in development and commercial milestones under a new pact it signed with GlaxoSmithKline covering its experimental platelet-booster and other thrombopoietin-related molecules. Report

And Finally... The National Venture Capital Association polled 400 venture capitalists about what they expected from the 2009 investment environment. If 2008 was a rough year for venture capital, 2009 could be even worse. Report