House hands FDA biggest funding boost ever; Merck's Isentress gets nod for broader use;

> The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a $373 million funding increase for FDA, the largest boost in the agency's history; the $2.99 billion budget awaits approval in the Senate. Report

> Merck said U.S. regulators widened the approved use of its Isentress HIV treatment to include patients who have not yet been treated for infections with the virus that causes AIDS. Report

> Anti-TNF therapies for arthritis and other autoimmune diseases--including Amgen's Enbrel, Johnson & Johnson's Remicade, and Abbott Laboratories' Humira--appear to increase the risk of tuberculosis in certain patients, French researchers have found. Report

> India's Matrix Laboratories sued Teva Pharmaceutical Industries to challenge a process patent used to make the Israeli company's blockbuster branded med Copaxone. Report

> Celesio's supervisory board cleared the German drug distributor's contested takeover of a Brazilian peer which had exposed a rift between its management and main shareholder. Report

> Japanese drugmaker Shionogi scrapped a plan to buy privately held Victory Pharma of the United States. Report

> Bristol-Myers Squibb launched a new website called for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and their caregivers. Report

> Watson Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for generic versions of two flavors of GlaxoSmithKline's Nicorette nicotine gum. Report

Biotech News

> La Jolla, CA-based Intellikine has scooped up $51 million in venture fund commitments to support its work in one of the hottest fields in biomedical research. Report

> President Obama has selected the world-famous geneticist Dr. Francis Collins (photo) to run the National Institutes of Health, a job that will give him enormous influence over how the government allocates more than $29 billion a year in research funds. Report

> Shares of MAP Pharmaceuticals slid nine percent on the news that AstraZeneca had pulled out of a collaboration with the developer on an experimental pediatric asthma therapy, forcing MAP to suspend its development. MAP immediately regained all rights for Unit Dose Budesonide. Report

> Another one of this year's Fierce 15 is in the news this week with a $470 million collaboration deal. Portola Pharmaceuticals will pocket a $50 million upfront fee and stands to gain an additional $420 million in milestones from Merck, which gains worldwide licensing rights to Portola's betrixaban, an investigational oral Factor Xa inhibitor anticoagulant. Report

> A second mid-stage study has turned up positive data for Rigel's experimental treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. And execs for the developer say they're closing in on a partnership deal that they hope to ink in the first half of next year--news that helped boost the company's share price by close to 20 percent. Report

And Finally... A long-awaited study of aging in rhesus monkeys suggests, with some reservations, that people could considerably extend their life span by following a caloric-restrction diet. Report