Cancer Research UK in London disclosed partnerships with Deep Science Ventures and Panacea Charitable Trust to kick-start the charity's first initiative to promote entrepreneurship. The partnerships will progress two business accelerator programs, providing support and education to early career researchers, helping to transform innovative ideas from within the cancer research community into viable companies that can one day benefit patients. The partnership with Deep Science Ventures will see Cancer Research UK co-fund a one-year program, where researchers are invited to explore areas of oncology in need of translational progress. At least three successful applicants will be further supported to investigate key problem areas in oncology. The pact with Panacea will allow the charity to support a one-year program, providing researchers with entrepreneurial skills and business support to progress their ideas from lab to company.

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult innovation center in London said it completed six additional modules at its manufacturing center in Stevenage, U.K. The success of the center has seen the Catapult accelerate the planned build-out of the expansion phase, with another six clean rooms in the already constructed space on the second floor of the building. The center has been fully operational since April 2018 and achieved licensure in August 2018. Depending on the process, each module can accommodate 20 parallel autologous cell processes or a bioreactor process up to 1,000L bioreactors for allogeneic cell or viral vector manufacture, the center said. The first collaborators are expected to start benefiting from that new space at the beginning of 2020.

The Center for Process Innovation in Redcar, U.K., disseminated the results of the £11.2 million (US$13.9 million) Biostreamline project to optimize the development of novel biotherapeutics. The project focused on accelerating the discovery and development of monoclonal antibodies and aimed to overcome key bottlenecks in the biologics supply chain. By improving biologics production, superior drugs can be identified earlier and will lead to more efficient development and manufacture of biologics, CPI said. Funding for the project was provided by the U.K. government's advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative.

China Biologic Products Holdings Inc., of Beijing, said its board has formed a special committee to review and evaluate the previously announced preliminary nonbinding "going private" proposal that the board received on Sept. 18 from Beachhead Holdings Ltd., CITIC Capital China Partners IV LP, PW Medtech Group Ltd., Parfield International Ltd., HH Sum-XXII Holdings Ltd. and V-Sciences Investments Pte. Ltd. The board cautioned shareholders and others considering trading in its securities that neither the board nor the special committee has made any decision with respect to the company's response to the proposal.

Crescendo Biologics Ltd., of Cambridge, U.K., achieved a fifth milestone in its collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo. Under the global, multitarget collaboration and license agreement with Takeda that was disclosed in October 2016, Crescendo's transgenic platform and engineering expertise is used to identify and configure Humabody-based therapeutics against certain targets selected by Takeda. Crescendo has successfully delivered three oncology-targeted Humabody lead molecules, and Takeda has taken exclusive licenses to both of the first two programs.

Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Nashville, Tenn., said it was awarded just over $1 million in funding from the FDA through the Orphan Drug Grant program to support a phase II study testing ifetroban, a thromboxane-prostanoid receptor antagonist, in cardiomyopathy associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in patients, 7 and older.

Discgenics Inc., of Salt Lake City, disclosed the online publication of a study in The Spine Journal that summarizes the results of preclinical testing for Discogenic Cells, the active ingredient in IDCT, Discgenics' investigational cell therapy for disc degeneration. The manuscript, titled "In Vitro and In Vivo Evaluation of Discogenic Cells, An Investigational Cell Therapy for Disc Degeneration," demonstrates that intradiscal injection of Discogenic Cells may be a viable treatment for human degenerative disc disease, reporting that the cells produce extracellular matrix that may rebuild the depleting tissue within degenerative discs, and pose no significant safety concerns, the company said.

Enesi Pharma Ltd., of Oxford, U.K., secured funding from Innovate UK, the U.K.'s innovation agency, under the Biomedical Catalyst 2019 Round 1: Early and Late Stage Awards Initiative. The award of £870,419 (US$1 million) will co-fund a major new £1.24 million project to develop a scalable aseptic manufacturing process for live or live-attenuated viral vectors for use with Enesi's Implavax needle-free solid-dose technology, the company said.

Evotec SE, of Hamburg, Germany, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, are partnering to develop at least five drug programs. Evotec will be responsible for the drug discovery, and Takeda will have options to take over development at lead series and when Evotec delivers a preclinical candidate. Evotec will receive an undisclosed one-time payment and is eligible for preclinical, clinical and commercial milestone payments that can total in excess of $170 million per program, as well as tiered royalties on sales.

Exosome Sciences, of San Diego, a subsidiary of Aethlon Medical Inc., said it entered a research collaboration to identify and characterize exosomes derived from patients with solid tumors such as pancreas cancer, as well as from families with genetically high risk of developing cancer. The cancer-derived exosomes might serve as early markers for cancer diagnostics, cancer progression and treatment resistance, the company said. Further details were not disclosed.

Foundation Medicine Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and Natera Inc., of San Carlos, Calif., are collaborating to develop personalized circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) monitoring assays for customers who order Foundation's Foundationonecdx test. The personalized assays will draw on data from Foundation's initial test and incorporate components of Natera's Signatera platform. The companies plan to start with ctDNA monitoring for biopharmaceutical customers for use in clinical trials in 2020. After the studies, the companies hope to launch the assays for clinical customers.

GT Biopharma Inc., of Tampa, Fla. sold the rights to GTB-004, a fixed-dose combination of pyridostigmine, an antagonist to reduce gastrointestinal side effects that's being developed for the treatment of myasthenia gravis, to DAS Therapeutics Inc. GT Biopharma will receive $200,000 up front and is eligible for annual royalties of 1.5% of net sales and a $6 million payment based on achievement of a commercial milestone.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University, of Hong Kong, developed a new class of antibiotic drug candidates, called Nusbiarylins, which inhibit the interaction of NusB and NusE that is crucial for synthesis of bacterial ribosomal RNA. The lead molecule, MC-4, has minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) for some methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains as low as 8 μg/mL, while the MICs of oxacillin and gentamicin were greater than 64 μg/mL.

Immunoprecise Antibodies Ltd., of Victoria, British Columbia, entered a letter of intent, through its subsidiary Talem Therapeutics, to form a joint venture with Agonox Inc., of Portland, Ore. The partnership will advance two of Agonox's top 10 drug candidates focused on modulation of the tumor microenvironment. Agonox is eligible for licensing fees and development and commercial milestones that could be worth approximately $720 million, as well as royalties on worldwide sales.

Minerva Neurosciences Inc., of Waltham, Mass., entered a long-term commercial supply agreement for roluperidone (MIN-101) with Catalent Inc., of Somerset, N.J., which will manufacture and package the finished dose of the drug. Roluperidone is currently in phase III development for schizophrenia.

Neucyte Inc., of San Carlos, Calif., said it entered an exclusive agreement with Trillium Therapeutics Inc., of Toronto, to advanced an undisclosed preclinical compound with potential use in treating refractory epilepsy in the form of Dravet syndrome and related disorders. Financial terms were not disclosed.

QED Therapeutics Inc., of San Francisco, a subsidiary of Bridgebio Pharma Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., is collaborating with The Ivy Brain Tumor Center to study infigratinib, an FGFR1-3 tyrosine kinase inhibitor, for the treatment of glioblastoma. Ivy Center will use FGFR3 fusion patient-derived xenograft models to study the drug and its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Rexahn Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Rockville, Md., is exploring strategic alternatives, including the possibility of an acquisition, merger, reverse merger, other business combination, sales of assets, licensing or other strategic transactions. The company reduced its staff by two positions and expects to have five employees as of Oct. 1. Rexahn projects it will have cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities of between $10 million and $12 million at the end of 2019.

Sandoz Inc., a unit of Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG, is voluntarily recalling lots of its ranitidine hydrochloride because of contamination with N-nitrosodimethylamine, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen.

Silence Therapeutics plc, of London, will receive the first $2 million in research milestones from Mallinckrodt plc, of Staines-upon-Thames, U.K., in connection with preclinical aspects of SLN-500, a C3 complement silencer that is part of the companies' licensing agreement established earlier this year. (See BioWorld, July 22, 2019.)

St George Street Capital (SGSC), of Harpenden, U.K., licensed two compounds, one for idiopathic male infertility and the other for renal transplant rejection, from Astrazeneca plc, of Cambridge, U.K., with the potential for additional compounds to be added in the future. After clinical development by SGSC, Astrazeneca has the right of first negotiation to take the compounds back for further development through phase III development and commercialization.

University of California, of Berkeley, Calif., and its partners, the University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, were awarded a 15th patent covering CRISPR/Cas9 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The new patent covers compositions of certain DNA-targeting RNAs that contain RNA duplexes that hybridize with Cas9 and target a desired DNA sequence.

The World Health Organization said health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo plan to introduce an experimental Ebola vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., into areas that do not have active Ebola transmission starting in mid-October. The vaccine will complement rVSV-ZEBOV-GP, a vaccine from Merck & Co. Inc., of Kenilworth, N.J., which is currently in used in the area.

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