Beroni Group, of New York and Sydney, said it is collaborating with Tianjin University in China to develop a medical solution for the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. A team of scientists from Tianjin University and Beroni is working to develop a rapid detection method and precision-driven treatment of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection using nanobody-based technology.

Cytokinetics Inc., of South San Francisco, reported preclinical data at the Biophysical Society meeting in San Diego, highlighting the mechanism of action for CK-274, a next-generation cardiac myosin inhibitor in development for the potential treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Data demonstrate that CK-274 reduces cardiac myosin activity in vitro and does not inhibit the actin-activated ATPase activity of smooth muscle myosin, supportive of its selectivity for cardiac myosin. Transient kinetic studies also show that CK-274 slows the rate of actin-activated phosphate release, without affecting ATP binding and hydrolysis, consistent with a mechanism that stabilizes myosin in weak actin-binding conformations. Additionally, the binding of CK-274 to cardiac myosin is shown to be mutually exclusive with the nonselective myosin inhibitor blebbistatin, thus suggesting they bind to the same or overlapping locations on cardiac myosin, but distinctly from one another given the differences in their selectivity for cardiac myosin. The company said those data characterize how CK-274 reduces cardiac contractility and demonstrate that cardiac myosin inhibition may address the underlying hypercontractility of the sarcomere in hypertrophic cardiomyopathies.

Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, said it completed its acquisition of Dermira Inc., of Menlo Park, Calif., for $1.1 billion in cash, gaining rights to Dermira’s lebrikizumab, a monoclonal antibody designed to bind IL-13 that is in phase III testing in atopic dermatitis, and adding marketed product Qbrexza (glycopyrronium), a medicated cloth for the topical treatment of primary axillary hyperhidrosis.

FSD Pharma Inc., of Toronto, disclosed the sale of its 12% equity interest in Canadian cannabis company Cannara Biotech Inc. to a consortium of buyers for cash proceeds of more than $7.7 million. FSD is developing a pipeline of synthetic compounds targeting the endocannabinoid system to treat CNS diseases and autoimmune disorders of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and musculoskeletal system.

Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals plc, of London, reported data indicating HEMO-CAR-T has anticancer activity in a mouse model of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In vivo, the HEMO-CAR product was able to program human T cells to identify and destroy human AML-derived cells, the company said. Hemogenyx is undertaking further engineering of HEMO-CAR to enhance the activity of the technology.

Hepion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Edison, N.J., reported results from in vitro studies showing that CRV-431 can decrease production of the extracellular matrix molecules, collagen and fibronectin, from fibroblastic cells derived from five different organs. Collagen and fibronectin overproduction from those types of cells cause fibrotic scarring of injured organs, and therefore the results suggest that CRV-431 could exert antifibrotic activity across a range of diseases. The five cell types included in the study were lung fibroblasts from a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, cardiac fibroblasts, dermal (skin) fibroblasts, renal mesangial cells and the LX2 hepatic stellate cell line.

Hummingbird Bioscience Inc., of Houston, said it signed an agreement with Mycenax Biotech Inc., of Taiwan, for the production of material for the phase I trial of its HMBD-002 program, anticipated to start in the second half of 2020. HMBD-002 is an anti-VISTA antibody developed for solid tumors that are unresponsive to existing treatments. Further terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Immunoprecise Antibodies Ltd., of Victoria, Australia, said it plans to develop vaccines against the new coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, (SARS-CoV-2) as well as coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies, addressing both prophylactic and therapeutic measures to fight the virus and its associated disease, COVID-19.

Lantheus Holding Inc., of North Billerica, Mass., and Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New York, said they entered an amended and restated agreement and plan of merger, in which Lantheus will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Progenics common stock at a fixed exchange ratio whereby Progenics stockholders will receive, for each share of Progenics stock held at the time of the closing of the merger, 0.31 of a share of Lantheus common stock, increased from 0.2502 under the original agreement, together with a nontradeable contingent value right, payable in two separate cash payments if PyL (18F-DCFPyL), Progenics’ prostate-specific membrane antigen-targeted imaging agent designed to visualize prostate cancer currently in late-stage clinical development, exceeds net sales thresholds of $100 million in 2022 and $150 million in 2023. As a result of the increase in the exchange ratio, following the completion of the merger, former Progenics stockholders’ aggregate ownership stake will increase to about 40% of the combined company.

Mesoblast Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, said an investigator-initiated expanded access protocol using its cryopreserved allogeneic cell therapy product candidate, remestemcel-L, for steroid-refractory chronic graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD) resulted in clinically meaningful outcomes in all three treated patients, two children and one adult, within 28 days after two infusions. On the basis of those outcomes, the investigator-initiated collaboration will be expanded to evaluate remestemcel-L in a pivotal trial for chronic GVHD.

Molecular Templates Inc., of Austin, Texas, will receive a $10 million milestone payment from Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, triggered by the start of dosing of a phase I study testing TAK-169, an engineered toxin body targeting CD38, in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma.

Novan Inc., of Morrisville, N.C., said it received about $1 million in funding from the NIH to cover the first year of a two-year Phase II federal grant. Novan is eligible to receive about $500,000 of additional funding for the second year, subject to availability of NIH funds and satisfactory progress of the project. The grant is additive to the roughly $223,000 Phase I NIH grant received in August 2019. The grant will provide reimbursement for certain project expenses related to the advancement of WH-602, a nitric oxide-containing intravaginal gel product candidate for the treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.

Recordati Rare Diseases Inc., of Lebanon, N.J., part of the Recordati Group, said it transferred U.S. marketing rights to Signifor (pasireotide) injection and Signifor LAR (pasireotide) for injectable suspension. The products will be marketed through Recordati Rare Diseases' newly established Endocrinology franchise, the company said. Signifor is indicated for the treatment of patients with Cushing's disease for whom pituitary surgery is not an option or has not been curative, and Signifor LAR is a once-a-month injectable for the treatment of patients with Cushing's disease and acromegaly for whom pituitary surgery is not an option or has not been curative.

Restorbio Inc., of Boston, has engaged JMP Securities LLC to conduct a strategic review to explore partnerships, acquisitions, mergers and other financial and strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value.

Stonewise, a technology company using artificial intelligence in drug development, screened drugs to treat the COVID-19 coronavirus, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. It has shared its findings, including the electronic structure data of more than 1,400 nucleoside inhibitors against various RNA polymerases from patents. The company ranked dozens of nucleosides from the molecules as potential inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase. Also, Stonewise, the Institute of Materia Medica, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College have reached a strategic research collaboration in finding a COVID-19 treatment. Stonewise will use its AI-based drug discovery technology and graph-extraction algorithm in the collaboration.

In an all-stock transaction, Tocagen Inc., of San Diego, will merge with Forte Biosciences Inc., of Torrance, Calif., and be renamed Forte Biosciences. The new company will trade under the ticker FBRX. Also, an investor syndicate that includes Alger, BVF Partners LP and Orbimed entered a securities purchase agreement to invest $14 million in the combined company. The financing will help fund further development of the combined company's clinical programs, including lead asset FB-401, a live biotherapeutic being developed as a topical therapy to treat inflammatory skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis.

Vifor Pharma Group, of St. Gallen, Switzerland, said it formed a partnership with Fresenius Kabi AG, of Bad Homburg, Germany, to create a joint company based in the People’s Republic of China aimed at expanding access to its intravenous iron portfolio. The partnership also expands Vifor’s cooperation with the Fresenius Group, as Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma is an already existing joint company with Fresenius Medical Care. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Wize Pharma Inc., of Hod Hasharon, Israel, completed the sale of $7.5 million of its series B non-voting redeemable preferred stock. Also, Bonus Biogroup Ltd., of Haifa, Israel, issued Wize new ordinary shares valued at $16.4 million. While 80% of the Bonus Biogroup shares purchased by Wize will be allocated to the Wize series B shareholders upon redemption of the Wize series B shares, Wize will receive 20% of the Bonus stock, which is valued at about $2.5 million. Bonus is developing a solution using tissue engineering technology for growing live human bone grafts. Wize in-licensed certain rights to purchase, market, sell and distribute LO2A, a drug developed for treating dry-eye syndrome and Sjögren's syndrome.

Final results of Austin-Texas-based Xbiotech Inc.’s modified Dutch auction tender offer, which expired Feb. 12, show that about 40 million common shares were tendered at the maximum purchase price of $33 each. Xbiotech purchased 14 million common shares at $30 per share for an aggregate cost of approximately $420 million. The shares represent about 32.67% of the common shares outstanding. The final proration factor for shares that Xbiotech purchased is approximately 33.25%. The company is developing a pipeline of antibody therapies for use in oncology, inflammatory conditions and infectious diseases.