Venezuela may take over closed Pfizer plant; Alcon breaks ground on Asian facility;

> Venezuela's government may take temporary control of a shuttered medicine plant that belongs to Pfizer, a top official said Friday, suggesting that the New York-based company should resume production. Report

> Alcon broke ground on its first pharma manufacturing plant in Asia with a ceremony in Singapore's Tuas Biomedical Park; the new 330,000-square-foot plant is expected to create 150 jobs. Report

> Six pharmaceutical companies--Abbott Laboratories, Aventis Pharmaceutical, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Schering-Plough/Warrick, Forest Laboratories and Baxter International--have settled Medicaid drug pricing lawsuits with the state of Alabama for $89 million. Report

> Israel's Zetiq said it successfully completed clinical trials for its technology for the early detection of cervical cancer. Report

> Two Big Pharma mergers top the list of the biggest M&A deals of 2009 (so far): Pfizer's $64.5 billion buyout of Wyeth and Merck and Schering-Plough's $46 billion combo. Report

> The U.S. government is setting aside $1 billion to launch development of an H1N1 swine flu vaccine, as the disease continues to spread around the globe and its future course and severity remain unknown. Report

> Taiwan's legislature has passed a bill to form a new food and drugs administration, which will bring together under one roof most regulatory functions. Report

> Scientists at the University of California have identified a 'happyhour' gene that plays a key role in alcoholism, and two blockbuster cancer drugs already target the disease pathway. Report

> Top stem cell scientists say that the NIH's newly-outlined ethical standards threaten to derail a variety of stem cell research projects currently underway. Report

> Vaccine maker Vical announced today that it will raise $14.6 million in a registered direct offering. Report

> Aastrom Biosciences shares slid 24 percent Friday morning on the news that the company halted a mid-stage trial for a congestive heart failure treatment following the death of a patient. Report

> Massachusetts state lawmakers are considering cutting the operating budget for the Massachusetts Life Science Center by one-third to $10 million, the Boston Herald reports. Report

> Switzerland's Lonza is making a $150 million investment in Genome Valley, an area outside Hyderabad. Lonza CEO Stefen Borgas said the company was attracted to Genome Valley by the talent pool, scientific culture and the infrastructure facilities. Report

> Johnson & Johnson has snagged a biotech with a late-stage oncology drug in its pipeline. J&J will pay $1 billion cash for Los Angeles-based Cougar Biotechnology, which is developing drugs for prostate cancer, breast cancer and multiple myeloma. Cougar will work with Ortho Biotech Oncology R&D, a unit of Centocor R&D. Report

And Finally... Giving an inexpensive deworming drug to millions of girls in rural Africa could substantially reduce transmission of the virus that causes AIDS, researchers say. Report