Alligator Bioscience AB, of Lund, Sweden, said its nomination committee, following an initiative from the board of directors, proposed reducing fees to board members by 20% compared to the nomination committee's original proposal to the annual general meeting, scheduled for May 5. The measures, designed to decrease costs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, would reduce remuneration for the board chair to SEK 440,000 (US$43,990) from SEK 550,000 the previous year and for other board members not employed by the company to SEK 240,000 from SEK 300,000 the previous year. The board also proposed that, other than payment of SEK 20,000 to the committee chair, down from SEK 25,000 the previous year, members of the remuneration committee will receive no payment going forward. Alligator’s board also plans to allow shareholders to vote by mail for the annual general meeting.

Anixa Biosciences Inc., of San Jose, Calif., said it formed a strategic collaboration with Ontochem GmbH, of Halle, Germany, to discover and develop antiviral drug candidates to treat COVID-19. The program will focus on two proteins of the coronavirus, including the main protease, Mpro, an enzyme that severs a large polypeptide into functional proteins that enable the virus to replicate in the human host, and an endoribonuclease that plays a role in breaking up the ribonucleic acid of the virus. The partners plan to use high performance computing and artificial intelligence to identify molecules that inhibit the function of Mpro and to identify compounds that disrupt the binding between endoribonuclease and a human host protein. Anixa and Ontochem then will evaluate potential side effects and drug-like characteristics of the molecules, synthesize the molecules to evaluate their activity with certain assays and advance lead compounds into animal testing. Financial terms were not disclosed.

CB Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, said it inked a memo of understanding with the Cleveland Clinic to produce tryptamine compounds for clinical trials after achieving successful biosynthesis of psilocybin, psilocin and other related tryptamine-based compounds. The agreement covers the production of psilocybin and associated molecules used in combination with psychotherapy to treat depression and addiction, dimethyltryptamine and its analogs to treat depression and addiction, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, analogs to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Chromadex Corp., of Los Angeles, said preclinical research examining the effect of infection with coronavirus on levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) within the celon cells and infected animal tissue and on a COVID-19 cadaver were published online at bioRxiv.org. The data showed that COVID-19 assault on the cells causes a greater than three-fold reduction in NAD and triggers the infected cells to seek out nicotinamide riboside (NR) to replenish NAD levels in the face of viral infection. The data suggested that increasing cytoplasmic NAD levels through a NAD precursor, such as NR, may support innate immunity to coronaviruses and other viruses. The research was conducted jointly at the University of Iowa, Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Kansas. Chromadex is developing Niagen, a formulation of nicotinamide riboside.

Compugen Ltd., of Holon, Israel, said a paper describing the ability of BAY-1905254 to trigger an antitumor immune response in mice was published in Cancer Immunology Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Preclinical studies of the immune checkpoint inhibitor, which targets the immunoglobulin-like domain containing receptor 2, were conducted in collaboration with licensee Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany, with data showing in vitro T-cell activation and in vivo antitumor activity. Bayer is running a phase I study of BAY-1905254 as monotherapy and in combination with Keytruda (pembrolizumab, Merck & Co. Inc.) in advanced solid tumors.

Cue Biopharma Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said it agreed to collaborate with Merck & Co Inc., of Kenilworth, N.J., through a subsidiary, to evaluate the combination of CUE-101 with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in first-line human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive advanced head and neck cancer. CUE-101 is a fusion protein comprised of a human leukocyte antigen complex, an HPV16 E7 peptide epitope, reduced affinity human interleukin-2 molecules and an effector attenuated human immunoglobulin G Fc domain. Cue plans to conduct the phase I KEYNOTE-A78 combination study in parallel with an ongoing phase I monotherapy study of CUE-101 post first-line treatment. Subsequent to respective dose escalations, expansion cohorts evaluating CUE-101 as monotherapy and in combination with Keytruda will be conducted at optimized dosing regimens.

Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Berkeley Heights, N.J., said it inked an agreement with the University of Edinburgh to study fadraciclib (CYC-065) and seliciclib (CYC-202 or R-roscovitine), its cyclin-dependent kinase-2/9 inhibitor candidates, to treat the inflammatory response observed in individuals with COVID-19. The partners will assess the candidates for suitability in safety and efficacy studies in COVID-19 patients as part of the university’s broader STOPCOVID project studying the inflammatory pathways that lead directly to COVID-19 lung injury. Previously published research from the university and other investigators found that CDK inhibitors, including seliciclib, helped to resolve undesirable inflammation by promoting apoptosis of inflammatory neutrophils, including reduction in levels of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 and transcription inhibition of interleukin-6, both believed to be drivers of the systemic inflammatory response damaging the lungs of symptomatic COVID-19 patients. STOPCOVID is supported by a £2 million (US$2.5 million) grant from Lifearc, and the university is seeking additional funding.

Epsilogen Ltd., (formerly Igem Therapeutics Ltd.), of London, said it in-licensed exclusive global rights to MOv18 IgE, an anti-folate receptor alpha immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody, from King's College London, where the antibody was developed in collaboration with Cancer Research UK. Epsilogen is set to advance development of MOv18 IgE, including the establishment of a manufacturing program with a contract development and manufacturing organization. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Esperion Therapeutics Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., said it concluded a collaboration agreement with Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, for exclusive development and commercialization rights in Japan to the recently approved products Nexletol (bempedoic acid) and Nexlizet (bempedoic acid + ezetimibe fixed-dose combination). Otsuka assumed responsibility for development, regulatory and commercialization activities in Japan and agreed to fund all Japan-specific development costs. Esperion is set to receive $60 million in cash up front and up to $450 million additional development and sales milestone payments as well as tiered royalties ranging from 15% to 30% on net sales in Japan.

Helsinn Therapeutics (U.S.) Inc., of Iselin, N.J., said it is waiving copay fees through June for its cancer-treating drug Valchlor (mechlorethamine) gel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The copay program is available only for U.S. and Puerto Rico residents 18 or older and who have commercial health insurance. Valchlor for a topical treatment for stage Ia and Ib mycosis fungoides-type cutaneous T-cell lymphoma in patients who have received prior skin-directed therapy.

Inmune Bio Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., said it will enroll patients in a new therapeutic program to treat patients with pulmonary complications from COVID-19 infection. The program will use the company’s dominant-negative TNF inhibitor platform to target hospitalized patients with hypoxia who do not yet require intensive respiratory support. The treatment is designed to decrease transferring patients to the intensive care unit and the need for mechanical ventilation. Soluble TNF is part of COVID-19’s cytokine storm and is elevated in those hospitalized patients. Soluble TNF activates immune cells that contribute to hypoxia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which can result in the need for mechanical ventilation, the company said.

Innocan Pharma Corp., of Herzeliya, Israel, entered a sponsored research agreement with Ramot at Tel Aviv University to develop a COVID-19 treatment using cannabidiol-loaded exosomes. Innocan will fund the research based on agreed milestones, for about $450,000 in the first stage. The technology targets both CNS indications and COVID-19. The exosomes could help infected lung cells recover, the company said. The product, which is expected to be administrated by inhalation, will be tested against a variety of lung infections.

Melinta Therapeutics Inc., of Morristown, N.J., said it completed its financial restructuring to emerge from Chapter 11. Melinta is now privately owned by Deerfield Management Co. affiliates and will continue to supply, distribute and support its four marketed products for treating antibiotic-resistant infections: Vabomere (meropenem and vaborbactam), Orbactiv (oritavancin), Minocin (minocycline) for injection and Baxdela (delafloxacin). Melinta went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 27. In the nine months to the end of September 2020, Melinta had a net loss of $276,000 and said it did not expect to break even within the next 12 months.

Molecular Partners AG, of Zurich, Switzerland, said it has identified multiple proteins from its Darpin platform which neutralize samples of the SARS-CoV-2, engineering them into trispecific antiviral candidates that target three parts of the viral "spike" protein. The company, which has been working with the Spiez Laboratory, said it's now proceeding with expedited preclinical testing to select a lead candidate.

Noxxon Pharma N.V., of Berlin, received a final exercise notice from Acuitas Capital LLC, which converted the last of their warrants to shares. As a result of this conversion Acuitas will no longer holds any warrants. The warrants were issued in connection with the company’s €6.2 million equity capital raise on Nov. 16, 2018. The investment helps Noxxon to advance NOX-A12 trial in heavily pretreated metastatic pancreatic and colorectal patients, the company said.

Recce Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Sydney, Australia, reported preclinical data showing "significant" in vivo antiviral activity against the influenza A virus in mice treated with its lead compound RECCE-327 vs. a vehicle control group and group treated with an approved antiviral drug ribavirin. RECCE-327 continued to show efficacy at different dose levels with significant reduction in viral count in the lungs when compared with the vehicle control, the company said.

Som Biotech SL, of Barcelona, Spain, announced the in vitro validation of three drug candidates as new therapies for the treatment of COVID-19. Studies with the three candidates can be initiated immediately, the company said. One of the candidates, Xerava (eravacycline, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals Inc.), is an already approved drug. The second compound, prexasertib, is in clinical development and the third one, cynarine, is a natural compound used as a dietary supplement. A patent application has been filed to provide a method of use protection for the three compounds worldwide, the company said.

Theravance Biopharma Inc., of Dublin, highlighted the publication of an article summarizing results from completed phase I and preclinical studies of TD-1473, the company's gut-selective pan-Janus kinase inhibitor. The manuscript, published in the Journal of Crohn's and Colitis, showcases "data demonstrating minimal systemic drug exposure, local target engagement, and trends toward reduced markers of ulcerative colitis disease activity following TD-1473 administration vs. placebo," the company said.

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