Company news from the 02/06/07 news brief

Schering-Plough has agreed to pay Anacor Pharmaceuticals of Palo Alto, CA up to $625 million for its toe-fungus treatment, dubbed AN2690. Under the arrangement, Schering-Plough initially will give privately held Anacor $40 million, plus a commitment to provide $10 million in additional financing. Schering-Plough also agreed to pay Anacor about $575 million more if Anacor meets certain development goals. AN2690 is aimed at individuals suffering from onychomycosis, a fungal ailment common in toenails, which causes the nails to thicken and become discolored. UK based market research firm All Global has been acquired by WPP. All Global will be integrated into WebSurveyResearch, a US-based marketing research company which is part of WPP. The acquisition helps broaden WebSurveyResearch's reach into the European marketplace. It will allow for significant advances for doing international on-line Healthcare research, recruiting for qualitative research and conducting in-person or telephone surveys, WPP said. WebSurveyResearch is based in New York City and was founded in 2000 as a subsidiary of The Ziment Group. The federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) ruled that Synthon IP obtained, by inequitable conduct, two U.S. patents alleged to cover a process and an intermediate compound used to make the active ingredient in Pfizer's widely prescribed hypertension medication, Norvasc, Pfizer said. Pfizer said the court found that Synthon knowingly failed to disclose to the US Patent Office Pfizer publications and other information it had in its possession that described the process Synthon sought to patent. Pfizer said it intends to seek attorneys’ fees from Synthon. The case may be appealed. Synthon had asserted that Pfizer's process for manufacturing Norvasc -- a process Pfizer had not only published but has been using for 15 years -- infringed Synthon patents issued in 2003 and 2005. In August of last year, a jury unanimously ruled that one of those patents was not infringed by Pfizer and was invalid on multiple grounds, principally because it was based on Pfizer's prior published work. Synthon had dropped its claim of infringement on the second patent prior to trial. Ligand Pharmaceuticals announced a reduction in headcount bringing the size of the San Diego company to 85 people, down from a recent level of 352. Included in the 267-position reduction announced are 40 home office employees and 23 field based employees whose employment was terminated at the beginning of January 2007 and approximately 62 Ligand employees who will be offered employment by King Pharmaceuticals in connection with the sales of Ligand’s sale of Avinza (morphine sulfate) to King. Most of the restructuring will take place in the first quarter of 2007, with a small transitional team staying until mid-year. The company's CFO, Paul Maier, has stepped down. Tod Mertes, a VP and Ligand's former corporate controller, will assume the position of Interim CFO. Associated with the restructuring and refocused business model of the company, several officers have agreed to step down, including the chief scientific officer, general counsel and heads of human resources, operations, regulatory affairs and project management. Research and development will continue to be managed by VPs currently in place. The company's primary operations will be consolidated into one building with the goal to sublet unutilized space. Ligand’s subsidiary in the UK will be shut-down as soon as practicable, subject to local employment laws, the company said. Severance packages will be provided to employees directly affected by the restructuring. Ligand's collaborations with corporate partners including GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth, Pfizer, TAP, and Eli Lilly and Ligand's pending sale of Avinza to King Pharmaceuticals are not expected to be affected by the restructuring, Ligand said.