J&J asks FDA to broaden Invega use; Generics firms eye Shire's Fosrenol;

> Johnson & Johnson asked the FDA for two new uses for schizophrenia remedy Invega: for schizoaffective disorder, which causes similar symptoms to schizophrenia but also causes mania or depression; and for use in combination with antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Report

> Also, the FDA approved a Johnson & Johnson device to treat the common heart-rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation, marking the first such approval in an already fast-growing device market. Report

> Shire announced that both Barr Laboratories and Mylan are mounting generic challenges to Fosrenol, its phosphate binder for end-stage renal patients. Release

> Taro Pharmaceuticals said it received an FDA warning letter about quality control irregularities at its Canadian plant; the company said it already has corected many of the problems found during a July 2008 inspection. Report

> Jury selection is set to begin in a case pitting Alabama against Novartis' generic unit Sandoz, one of more than 70 companies the state sued in 2005 for allegedly overcharging Medicaid for prescription drugs. Report

> You don't need to be a cabinet appointee to skip taxes. MedImmune owes $11,029, but parent company AstraZeneca is arguing with the IRS for an exemption. Report

> Icahn is making another play for control at Biogen Idec, proposing four new board members. This comes as Biogen's shares fell in trading after Tysabri sales disappointed analysts and the company disclosed that yet another patient had developed PML. Report

> Avigen has rejected a potential merger deal Biotechnology Value Fund (BVF). Report

> The $44.5 million cash injection Cell Therapeutics received last summer after sending out an S.O.S. for help to sustain operations was apparently not enough. The Seattle-based company says it is evaluating strategic options for its preclinical drug development arm, Cell Therapeutics Europe Sede Secondaria (CTE), based in Bresso, Milan. Report

> GSK has inked a $450 million deal for Idenix Pharmaceutical's experimental HIV/AIDS drug, IDX899. Idenix gets a $34 million up-front payment; half was cash and the rest came from a purchase of Idenix stock at $6.87 per share. Report

> The funding crisis has hit France's biotech companies hard. France Biotech--the country's professional association for life science companies--is reporting that funding fell by 79 percent in 2008, relative to 2007 (€143 million in 2008 versus €694 million in 2007). Report

> Opening the barn door to a new era in farming and pharmaceuticals, the FDA approved the first drug produced by livestock that have been given a human gene. Report

> After two decades at the helm of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, CEO Dr. Joshua Boger announced that he will retire in May. Report

> While others are hunting for biotech prospects to strengthen their economy (ahem, Massachusetts), the San Francisco Examiner reports that the success of South San Francisco's biotech industry has insulated the region from the impact of the recession. Report

And Finally... A toxic chemical mixed into a teething medicine for babies has killed at least 84 children in Nigeria, more than tripling the toll in a wave of infant deaths that began in late November. Report