Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp., of Seattle, and Microsoft Corp. said they will leverage their existing partnership mapping population-wide adaptive immune responses to diseases at scale to study COVID-19. Finding the relevant immune response signature may advance solutions to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease, augmenting existing research efforts that primarily focus on the biology of the virus, they said. The data will be made freely available to any researcher, public health official or organization around the world via an open data access portal.

Immune Therapeutics Inc., of Orlando, Fla., said it signed a binding letter of intent to collaborate with Winter Park, Fla.-based Cytocom Inc. for the development of Lodonal and IRT-101 for use against COVID-19. The companies are planning to work with federal agencies to seek fast track approval using Lodonal to prevent or treat COVID-19 in high-risk groups who are infected with 2019-nCoV at U.S. clinical research centers. Immune Therapeutics noted that clinical data have shown that Lodonal and IRT-101 decreases the replication of the H1N1 influenza virus. It said it believes the same mechanism of action of modulating the immune system function, while also decreasing inflammation, will also work well to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Junshi Biosciences Ltd., of Shanghai, said it recently signed a collaboration agreement with the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMCAS) to jointly develop neutralizing antibodies, a potential novel treatment for COVID-19. Junshi and IMCAS said they have obtained multiple strains of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) capable of effectively blocking viral invasion in laboratory assays and have conducted animal experiments. Preliminary in vitro and in vivo studies have verified the blocking activity of the NAb strains, and the partners are in the process of verifying the preclinical toxicology and in vivo activity of the antibodies in order to file IND applications with domestic and overseas regulatory agencies.

Lexicon Pharmaceuticals Inc., of The Woodlands, Texas, said it will close out early two long-term outcomes studies of Zynquista (sotagliflozin), SCORED and SOLOIST, designed to demonstrate benefits in and support labeling for heart failure and chronic kidney disease. The decision is based on the company’s assessment that a near-term partnership to fund the studies to completion is unlikely, coupled with uncertainties surrounding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the trials.

Olix Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Suwon, South Korea, a developer of RNA interference (RNAi), said it will leverage prior preclinical research for developing siRNA therapeutics in treating respiratory illnesses to investigate a path forward for developing a COVID-19 therapy. The company filed a provisional patent application to advance the development of RNAi therapeutics against COVID-19 in February.

Polarisqb Inc., of Durham, N.C., has partnered with Fujitsu Ltd., of Tokyo, to create a drug discovery platform combining quantum-inspired technology, machine learning, hybrid quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics simulations. The platform is intended to enable significantly faster, more cost-effective discovery of lead molecules to develop new drugs. Specifically, the two firms have begun a drug discovery project targeting dengue fever, which has no approved treatments.

Revive Therapeutics Ltd.. of Toronto, is exploring the use of the drug bucillamine (N-mercapto-2-methylpropionyl-l-cysteine) as a potential treatment for infectious diseases, including influenza and COVID-19. Revive has explored the use of bucillamine in the treatment of acute gout flares and has completed a phase II study in the U.S. Also, the firm has explored the use of bucillamine in the treatment of cystinuria, for which it has received FDA orphan drug status, and its IND was accepted by the FDA to conduct a phase II study. Bucillamine has a well-known safety profile and has been prescribed in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in Japan and South Korea for more than 30 years, the company noted.

Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, of Miami, and Drug Innovations at Emory LLC, a not-for-profit biotechnology company wholly owned by Emory University in Atlanta, disclosed a collaboration to rapidly advance the latter’s EIDD-2801, a promising oral COVID-19 treatment, into human testing. The collaboration combines Ridgeback's experience advancing drug development efforts in the midst of an ongoing disease outbreak with the three decades of experience that the Emory group’s executive team has in antiviral drug development and commercialization. Ridgeback has exclusively licensed the compound, which has broad-spectrum activity against a number of diseases of extreme public health concern, the company said.

Sorrento Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, produced a preclinical batch of the STI-4398 (COVIDTrap) protein to immediately commence testing its neutralization and blocking activity in preventing SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)-expressing cells. STI-4398 is an ACE2-Fc fusion protein and binds to the S1 domain of the spike protein, which is expected to block the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to bind the ACE2 receptors present on the target respiratory epithelial cells. It has been engineered to have a prolonged half-life in the human blood circulation, Sorrento said.

Sosei Group Corp., of Tokyo, said a review article, titled “Advances in Therapeutic Peptides Targeting G Protein-coupled Receptors,” has been published by Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. The article has resulted from a successful collaboration between Sosei Heptares and a leading international research group at the University of Cambridge. In the article, the authors systematically review the development of peptide-based drugs targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and the still significant opportunities that exist to apply insights from 3D GPCR structures to generate new and improved peptide therapeutics. Nearly 50 GPCR peptide drugs have been approved to date, most of them for metabolic disease or oncology indications, and more than 10 potentially first-in-class peptide therapeutics are in the pipeline.

Tarveda Therapeutics Inc., of Watertown, Mass., and Sciclone Pharmaceuticals International Ltd., of Foster City, Calif., signed a licensing agreement for PEN-866, the initial clinical program from Tarveda’s heat-shock protein 90 (HSP90)-binding miniature drug conjugate platform, which is designed to bind to the activated form of HSP90 to accumulate and release its potent topoisomerase 1 inhibitor payload in solid tumors. Sciclone will obtain exclusive licensing rights to co-develop and commercialize PEN-866 in the greater China territory, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Sciclone will be responsible for development, product registration and commercialization in those territories, and will pay Tarveda an up-front payment of $4 million with the right to make a future equity investment in Tarveda of up to $5 million. Tarveda will be eligible to receive up to $75 million in aggregate development, approval and commercial sales milestone payments, plus royalties.

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