Aqualung Therapeutics Corp., of Tucson, Ariz., said it is developing ALT-100, a therapeutic monoclonal antibody, to combat serious unchecked inflammation. The initial application aims to reduce the mortality of acute respiratory distress syndrome and ventilator-induced lung injury. That offers a potential option in the treatment of COVID-19, the company said.

Arecor Ltd., of Cambridge, U.K., said it extended its multiproduct collaboration with an undisclosed U.S.-based clinical-stage biotechnology company. Under the collaboration, Arecor will leverage its Arestat technology to develop liquid formulations of two novel products in oncology and a rare genetic orphan condition. The partner is currently funding the development work and has the option to acquire the rights to the formulations and associated intellectual property under separate milestone-bearing licenses at pre-agreed financial terms.

Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, and the Indiana State Department of Health are collaborating to accelerate testing for SARS-CoV-2. Lilly’s research laboratories will be used to analyze samples taken in Indiana health care facilities, including nursing homes and emergency rooms. Lilly said if it can continuously access required diagnostic reagents, that should start to expand the state's ability to conduct testing and receive a timely diagnosis. Lilly said the company will not accept money from government agencies, hospitals, insurance companies or patients for conducting or analyzing the tests.

Entos Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta, said it is developing a Fusogenix DNA vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infections. The Fusogenix platform is a proteo-lipid vehicle (PLV) that uses a fusion mechanism to deliver its genetic payload directly inside cells. Entos has developed formulations to effectively deliver a wide range of genetic therapies, including plasmid DNA. The company said the use of plasmid DNA in a vaccine will allow it to design an optimized payload encoding multiple protein epitopes from key immunogenic SARS-COV-2 proteins. Those protein epitopes will stimulate the body’s natural antibody production and protective immune response to prevent COVID-19 disease.

Forma Therapeutics Inc., of Watertown, Mass., said it sold select hit discovery capabilities and related assets to an undisclosed biotech startup that aims to increase the efficiency of medicine development using computational-enabled capabilities. Under the deal terms, Forma will receive cash and equity in the newco as consideration. It will also be eligible to receive royalties on net sales of certain products identified using the startup’s discovery platform. Forma said it retains its wholly owned pipeline with assets ranging from early drug discovery into clinical development, as well as drug discovery capabilities tailored to advance its programs in rare hematologic diseases and cancers. Forma also secured an option from the newco to access early discovery capabilities for a select number of programs.

While developing a peptide vaccine to treat COVID-19, Generex Biotechnology Corp., of Miramar, Fla., issued a guidance for evaluating potential vaccines, saying its Ii-Key technology from Nugenerex Immuno-Oncology (formerly Antigen Express Inc.) uses synthetic peptides that mimic essential protein regions from a virus that are chemically linked to the 4-amino acid Ii-Key to ensure immune system activation. In particular, the guidance noted, the Ii-Key ensures potent activation of CD4+ T cells, which facilitate antibody production to ward off infection. That Ii-Key modification can be applied to any protein fragment of any pathogen to increase the potency of immune stimulation, the company added. The peptides and Ii-Key are made from naturally occurring amino acids.

Positive preclinical data for WEG-232, a topical treatment with a specific substance P-receptor inhibitor for erlotinib-induced facial dermatitis and hair loss in cancer patients, from New York’s Hoth Therapeutics Inc., suggests the application could be effective in suppressing erlotinib-induced facial rash/hair loss with an approximate 71% reduction. The company noted that the data also suggest WEG-232 may be used as an effective intervention to prevent EGFR-TKI-induced cutaneous toxicity.

In a collaboration between Mateon Therapeutics Inc., of Agoura Hills, Calif., and Meridian IT, the two will leverage on Mateon’s AI machine vision technology for use in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The technology can be deployed to track people and materials in pharmaceutical manufacturing to increase data integrity and compliance while reducing labor costs, Mateon officials said.

Nascent Biotech Inc., of San Diego, said it has begun research on a possible treatment for patients infected with COVID-19. In vitro studies have begun on Nascent's lead asset, pritumumab, which may be a receptor used by viruses for infection. Testing focuses on pritumumab’s ability to interfere with the virus' binding to its target cells. Pritumumab is a monoclonal antibody targeting vimentin. Cell surface vimentin is thought to be a potential target for the treatment of coronavirus infections.

Neurotheryx Canada Ltd., of Toronto, and Cyclica Inc., of Toronto, formed a joint venture, Nineteengale Therapeutics, to identify and develop novel cannabinoid-inspired drugs for bipolar disorder, anxiety and pain management. Under the initial stealth project, Neurotheryx combined its phenotype-based drug discovery platform with Cyclica’s proteome screening platform, Ligand Express, to synergistically uncover protein targets of Neurotheryx’s lead molecule in the area of neurodegenerative disease. Targets of interest were successfully triaged and identified using Cyclica’s Ligand Express and Neurotheryx’s approach, the companies said.

Rocket Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New York, disclosed the peer-reviewed publication of a study evaluating the efficacy of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy delivering human LAMP2B in a mouse model of Danon disease, a rare genetic disorder often resulting in heart failure. The Science Translational Medicine publication, “AAV9.LAMP2B Reverses Metabolic and Physiologic Multiorgan Dysfunction in a Murine Model of Danon Disease,” describes data demonstrating that vector-mediated transfer of LAMP2B to deficient mice improved heart function and survival. Those findings underscore the promise of Rocket’s AAV-based gene therapy candidate for Danon disease, RP-A501, the company said.

Roivant Sciences Ltd., of New York, said it has engaged with regulators in the U.S., Europe and Asia to rapidly advance the clinical development of gimsilumab for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome associated with SARS-CoV2 infection. Gimsilumab is a clinical-stage, fully human monoclonal antibody targeting GM-CSF, a pro-inflammatory cytokine found to be up-regulated in the serum of COVID-19 patients, according to recent data from patients in China. The percentages of GM-CSF-expressing CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, natural killer cells and B cells have been observed to be significantly higher in the blood of ICU-admitted COVID-19 patients when compared with healthy controls, the company noted.

Stabilitech Biopharma Ltd., of Burgess Hill, U.K., completed its COVID-19 Master Viral Seedstock, which it now intends to have manufactured and formulated into its patent-protected capsule for oral vaccine delivery. Once approved by the regulatory authorities, Stabilitech said it aims to disrupt the vaccine market by producing safe, efficacious, self-administered vaccine capsules that are inexpensive to produce, developed in weeks, thermally stable and can be posted direct to consumer. Stabilitech obtained the COVID-19 genetic sequence as soon as it was available from China.

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