48Hour Discovery Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta, a University of Alberta biotechnology spin-off company that develops peptide-based therapeutic drugs from billion-scale libraries of molecules, said it initiated drug discovery projects for therapeutic targets related to COVID-19. The company is also working with external stakeholders and partners to provide access to the search platform to assist in rapid discovery services for other COVID-19-related projects, including test development and treatment options. The firm said it is investing its own resources to support its COVID-19 research but is looking for partners to speed development.

Afecta Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Irvine, Calif., said it has been invited to submit two of its lead drug candidates to the NIH to be evaluated for initiation of preclinical and potential clinical testing for treatment of SARS-CoV-2. The compounds, identified using Afecta's Pharmetrx artificial intelligence platform, demonstrate immunomodulation similar to that of hydroxychloroquine or inhibition of viral replication or attachment to host cells, according to the company.

New York-based Aikido Pharma Inc., formerly known as Spherix Inc., secured an exclusive worldwide license for an antiviral drug technology platform from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, that it said works to inhibit replication of multiple viruses, including influenza virus, SARS-COV, MERS-COV, Ebola virus and Marburg virus. The new platform is "is broader with more potential applicability" than technology the company licensed from the university in March, said CEO Anthony Hayes.

Applied Biology Inc., of Irvine, Calif., licensed to Louisville, Ky.-based Applied Botanics LLC intellectual property rights to a cannabinoid-based therapy under development for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Research suggests that cannabinoids may act as anti-androgens, said Applied Bio's chief medical officer, Andy Goren, "Provided our discovery proves correct in larger studies, anti-androgens may prove as an effective treatment for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses."

Aptevo Therapeutics Inc., of Seattle, regained compliance with Nasdaq's minimum bid price requirement after earlier failing to maintain a minimum bid price of $1 or more for 30 consecutive business days. On March 25, the company announced that it had completed the sale of global rights for its factor IX replacement Ixinity to Quebec-based Medexus Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $30 million up front and potential milestone payments totaling up to $11 million. Aptevo shares (NASDAQ:APVO) rose 15.2% on April 14 to close at $4.31.

Results of an ongoing surveillance study evaluating profiles and trends in antibiotic resistance among common ocular bacterial pathogens by Bausch + Lomb, of Bridgewater, N.J., showed that in vitro antibiotic resistance is prevalent nationwide among ocular staphylococci. One in three Staphylococcus aureus and one in two coagulase-negative staphylococci were methicillin-resistant, and three in four methicillin-resistant staphylococci were multidrug-resistant. The nationwide ARMOR project, a multicenter, prospective, laboratory-based surveillance study, began in 2009.

Results from a study by Cardiol Therapeutics Inc., of Oakville, Ontario, showed a greater than 100-fold increase in uptake of Cardiol's nanoparticles in heart failure hearts compared with control hearts in a preclinical model of non-ischemic heart failure. The nanoparticles localized within the diseased hearts are predominantly in areas of fibrosis. The company added that nanoparticles accumulated within the cytoplasm of the cultured fibroblasts. The company said the results show potential for successful delivery of antifibrotic drugs, such as cannabidiol, to the diseased region of the heart. Cardiol focuses on producing pharmaceutical cannabidiol therapies for heart diseases, including acute myocarditis.

Caredx Inc., of South San Francisco, joined a research partnership for Allocell, a surveillance solution for patients with engineered-cell transplants for allogenic cell therapy. With allogeneic therapies, CAR T cells are manufactured from cells of healthy donors for off-the-shelf use in patients, simplifying the manufacturing process and reducing patients’ wait time from diagnosis to treatment. Caredx provides genomics-based information for transplant patients.

Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Berkeley Heights, N.J., said it effected a 1-for-20 reverse stock split, as of 5 p.m. ET April 14. The move is intended to increase the per share trading price of the company's common stock to satisfy the $1 minimum bid price requirement for continued listing on Nasdaq.

Cyclica Inc., of Toronto, said it began a multiyear and multiproject collaboration with the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), including polypharmacology profiling to compound design for diverse drug discovery programs in oncology and related diseases. GIS will conduct new compound design and off-target profiling to discover hits and then develop the lead compounds. GIS will perform functional analyses and testing of compounds derived from Cyclica’s drug discovery platform against gene targets of interest to GIS. The collaboration leverages GIS’ experience in functional genomics, drug target discovery and data analytics, and Cyclica’s AI-augmented platform.

Generex Biotechnology Corp., of Miramar, Fla., said the company is working with corporate collaborators, academic advisors and contract manufacturers, with guidance from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and other government agencies, to develop a plan and budget for testing a synthetic peptide vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Generex said it will evaluate a number of peptide vaccine candidates for future clinical use. The company said its research partners have identified amino acid sequences that are predicted via computational algorithms to be antigenic epitopes of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to develop a synthetic peptide vaccine for COVID-19.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Human Vaccines Project (HVP) started the Human Immunomics Initiative (HII), a joint project that aims to revolutionize the understanding of the human immune system and accelerate the creation of effective vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. HII will bring together Chan experts in epidemiology, causal inference, immunology, and computational and systems biology with the resources and expertise of the HVP, a global, nonprofit, human immunology-based clinical research consortium. HII will develop artificial intelligence-powered models of immunity that can be used to accelerate the design and testing of vaccines and therapeutics for a wide range of diseases, Harvard said.

IBSA Institut Biochimique SA, of Lugano, Switzerland, and Granata Bio Inc., of Boston, disclosed a partnership focused on the clinical development of IBSA's subcutaneous progesterone, Prolutex, in the U.S. Prolutex is an investigational drug that is being developed to provide luteal phase supplementation in women undergoing in vitro fertilization as part of an assisted reproductive technology treatment program. Currently available FDA-approved progesterone options for U.S. patients include intravaginal effervescent tablets and gels. Progesterone-in-oil (progesterone injection) is used off-label via an intramuscular injection usually administered by a partner or caregiver. Prolutex is an aqueous progesterone hydroxypropyl betadex solution for subcutaneous injection, developed and manufactured by IBSA.

Immunoprecise Antibodies Ltd., of Victoria, British Columbia, through its subsidiary, Talem Therapeutics, has entered a research license agreement with the Janssen Research & Development LLC arm of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., providing Janssen exclusive access to a panel of novel, monoclonal antibodies against an undisclosed target. Janssen holds an option to acquire all commercial rights to the antibodies. Financial details were not disclosed.

Inato SAS, of Paris, unveiled its anti-COVID-19 platform, described as a comprehensive, easily searchable, central repository for all existing clinical trials for SARS-CoV2. The platform is public, free to access and offers extensive search and filtering capabilities. Trials listed in the database mainly come from public registries or aggregators, including the World Health Organization clinical trials registry platform and online sources. To Inato’s knowledge, no unique and centralized repository where all clinical studies conducted worldwide on COVID-19 existed previously.

Intensity Therapeutics Inc., of Westport, Conn., signed a clinical trial collaboration agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (BMS), of New York. The program will evaluate the safety and efficacy of Intensity’s lead product, INT230-6, an investigational drug designed to directly kill cancer cells through intratumoral injection and improve immune cell recognition of cancer, when dosed in combination with BMS’ checkpoint inhibitor, Yervoy (ipilimumab). The combination will be evaluated in patients with breast cancer, liver cancer and advanced sarcoma in a series of new cohorts within IT-01, Intensity’s ongoing phase I/II trial. Intensity will sponsor and conduct the trial, and BMS will supply Yervoy for use in the study.

Kannalife Inc., of Doylestown, Pa., said the studies performed on the company’s patented compound, Atopidine, suggest that Atopidine has outperformed cannabidiol (CBD) in preventing inflammatory responses relevant to UVB-radiation in one of its studies. The company has conducted scientific comparisons that have been made between two substances: CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, and Atopidine, the designated name for a small molecule that has been shown in preclinical testing to have protective and anti-inflammatory properties. The inhibition of release of inflammatory substances from skin cells irradiated with UVB-radiation were used to monitor the comparison of the two substances. Although both compounds were effective in preventing the release of TNF-alpha, only Atopidine was found to be effective in preventing the release of interleukin-1-beta from human epidermal cells.

Kymab Group Ltd., of Cambridge, U.K., said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board declined to continue the inter partes review requested by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Tarrytown, N.Y., over Kymab’s U.S. patents covering genetically modified mice and the human antibody therapeutics produced by the mice.

Lantheus Holdings Inc., of North Billerica, Mass., and Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New York, said Velan Capital, a shareholder of both companies, has agreed to support the merger of the two companies.

Ligandal Inc., of San Francisco, is using its peptide-based delivery technology to develop an antidote and vaccine for the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Macromoltek Inc., of Austin, Texas, has applied its computational design technology to help its partner, Cytovia Therapeutics Inc., of New York, develop a potential treatment of COVID-19.

Nantkwest Inc., of El Segundo, Calif., and Immunitybio Inc., of Culver City, Calif., have developed a series of immunomodulator regimens for COVID-19 based on the severity of a patient’s infection. Mild to moderate patients could be tested with Nantkwest’s CD-16, off-the-shelf natural killer cells, or Immunitybio’s N-803, an interleukin 15 product. More severe patients could be treated with Nantkwest’s mesenchymal stem cells. The companies expect to start clinical trials in the second quarter of 2020. The companies are also in the process of using adenovirus to develop a vaccine for the disease.

Neurodyn Cognition Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, changed its name to Alpha Cognition Inc. and will focus on the development of two new therapeutic products: Alpha-1062, for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, and Alpha-602, for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Northern Data AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, and Innoplexus AG, of Eschborn, Germany, are partnering to develop drugs against COVID-19 and other diseases. Innoplexus will run its artificial intelligence platform on Northern Data's high-performance-computing infrastructure.

Ori Biotech Ltd., of London, and Achilles Therapeutics Ltd., of Stevenage, U.K. are partnering to incorporate Ori's automated manufacturing technology into Achilles' manufacturing process. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Pattern Computer Inc., of Redmond, Wash., reported that a two-drug combination that was identified using its machine learning pattern discovery system synergistically killed cells in an in vitro organoid model of malignant breast cancer tumors.

Sosei Group Corp., of Tokyo, started a program to identify drugs that block the activity of the SARS-CoV-2 MPro protease Nsp5. The company is looking for partners to support the program and offer other expertise.

Tetra Biopharma Inc., of Ottawa, said the clinical site for the Plenitude clinical trial testing its cannabinoid Qixleef received the renewal of its schedule 1 license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Trillium Therapeutics Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said it expects enrollment to slow or potentially pause in its TTI-621 and TTI-622 clinical studies due to COVID-19. As of the end of the first quarter, the company had approximately $135 million in cash and investments, enough to last into 2022.

Xbiotech USA Inc., of Austin, Texas, has discovered an antibody that neutralizes interleukin-1 alpha. The company plans to develop the antibody for diseases outside of dermatology with clinical trials planned for 2021.

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