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Renovis (RNVS) laid off 40% of its personnel as it concentrates its spending on three programs: a VR1 collaboration with Pfizer (PFE) and antagonists of the purinergic receptors P2X7 and P2X3, which are aimed at treating pain and inflammatory diseases.

All of these programs are in advanced pre-clinical studies. Renovis hopes the Pfizer drug candidate will begin clinical trials later this year, while its unpartnered programs could move into the clinic in 2008. After the layoffs, Renovis will have 70 employees and cash of $105 million. Renovis actually rose on the news, moving up 17 cents to $3.62, a gain of 5%.

Astellas Pharma of Japan received an approvable letter from the FDA for an immunosuppressant drug seeking to be used in heart transplants. Investors sent its shares 5% lower on the Tokyo stock exchange. The drug is a once-daily version of immunosuppressant Prograf, which will lose patent protection in 2008.

Molecular Insight Pharma [MIPI] in-licensed a Novartis (NVS) drug that has completed Phase II trials. Onalta is a radiolabeled peptide intended for metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine and carcinoid tumors that are resistant to other therapies. Molecular Insight will market the drug, if it wins approval, along with its own Azedra, another radiotherapeutic drug for neuroendocrine tumors. Azedra is in Phase I trials. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Molecular Insight is scheduled to make its IPO next week.

Lexicon Genetics (OTCQB:LEXG) has begun testing LX1031 in a Phase I trial for irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders. LX1031 is an oral drug that seeks to inhibit peripheral serotonin levels without affecting the levels of serotonin in the brain. Lexicon added on 10 cents to end at $3.44.

Crucell (CRXL) announced the award of a 2.4 million euro grant to develop a malaria vaccine. The grant was given to a six-member consortium of European universities that will be led by Crucell. The money will fund pre-clinical research that has the goal of a safe, affordable, two-component pediatric malaria vaccine. Crucell moved 25 cents higher to $26.80.

Merck Serono (SRA) will begin a Phase II test of cladribine for MS patients. The drug will be given as an adjunct to a new formulation of Rebif, an interferon beta-1a drug. As a monotherapy, cladribine is also in a Phase III trial as a first-line oral drug in relapsing MS. If approved, cladribine would be the first oral MS drug. Serono's shares slipped 9 cents to $21.96.

Wyeth (WYE) received an approvable letter for Pristiq, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor [SNRI] seeking an indication for major depressive disorder (MDD). Before final approval, Wyeth must satisfy the FDA about manufacturing issues and make post-marketing testing commitments. Wyeth gained 48 cents to end at $51.96.

Neurocrine Biosciences (NBIX) received a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to study the neuroprotective effects of adenosine A2A receptor antagonists in Parkinson’s disease models. The size of the grant was not disclosed. Neurocrine will soon select a compound from its A2A program to develop. Neurocrine ended the day 36 cents higher at $14.24.

Sangamo (SGMO) also received a Michael J. Fox Foundation award. It will use the $950,000 grant to study ZFP Therapeutics as a Parkinson’s disease treatment. The money will be allocated over two years. Sangamo slipped 4 cents to $6.99.

Biotech rebounded today. The Centient Biotech 200™ rose 24 points to 4099, a gain of .48%. The S&P 500 climbed .85% and Nasdaq closed 1.43% higher.

Disclosure: none.

Source: Biotech Stocks Day-In-Review: Renovis Cuts Staff By 40%