AB Science SA, of Paris, said preclinical data published on the bioRxiv preprint service reported that a drug repurposing screen identified masitinib as a 3CLpro inhibitor that blocks replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Data from the independent study elucidated masitinib’s mechanism of action against SARS-CoV-2, showing that masitinib inhibits 3CLpro, a SARS-CoV-2 protease that is crucial for virus infection and reproduction, by directly binding to the protease catalytic site. Masitinib recently received authorization by the French Medicine Agency (ANSM) to initiate a phase II study testing the drug in combination with isoquercetin for the treatment of COVID-19.

Asklepios Biopharmaceutical Inc., of Edinburgh, U.K., which is developing adeno-associated virus gene therapies for genetic disorders, said Scottish Enterprise is providing the firm with a £1.99 million (US$2.65 million) R&D grant. That, together with the company’s investment of £3.4 million, will fund research into the manufacturing challenges associated with scaling gene therapies for widespread patient access, to further develop technologies to improve the safety and efficacy of current therapies, and to enable the treatment of genetic diseases with more complicated disease pathways that the industry is not yet able to address.

Biomx Inc., of Ness Ziona, Israel, said it is collaborating with Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, of Ingelheim, Germany, to utilize the company’s Xmarker microbiome-based biomarker discovery platform to potentially identify biomarkers associated with patient phenotypes in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Biomx will generate metagenomic data of gut microbiome samples obtained from IBD patients with the aim of identifying biomarkers using the platform. Boehringer receives an option to negotiate an exclusive right to biomarkers discovered.

Brickbio Inc., of Boston, said it has demonstrated its ability to insert unnatural amino acids (UAAs), at any site, specifically, within a protein or antibody at commercial scale. These UAAs are used to attach any molecule that may enhance the performance (such as half-life, efficacy) of an antibody or protein therapeutic. Brickbio said the platform has been validated with extensive data and has been optimized to allow ample throughput for the company's internal efforts, as well as additional capacity to undertake pharmaceutical partnerships and co-development deals.

City of Hope, of Duarte, Calif., plans to run a phase I study testing leflunomide, an anti-inflammatory drug that is FDA-approved for rheumatoid arthritis, in cancer patients with COVID-19.

Clene Nanomedicine Inc., of Salt Lake City, is merging with Tottenham Acquisition I Ltd., of New York, a special purpose acquisition company. Clene's shareholders and management will receive approximately 54.25 million shares of the new company and are eligible to receive an additional 8.33 million shares subject to meeting certain targets. Clene's current management team will run the company after the transaction.

Decode Genetics, of Iceland, a subsidiary of Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen Inc., published data in The New England Journal of Medicine showing the level of antiviral antibodies against SARS-CoV2 didn’t decline within four months of diagnosis.

Enosi Life Sciences, of San Diego, launched to provide improved therapeutic approaches for autoimmune diseases and cancer. The company will initially focus on EN-1001, a TNF receptor 1 binding protein, and EN-2001, a multispecific antibody receptor fusion protein that traps inflammatory growth factors.

Evotec SE, of Hamburg, Germany, is partnering with the University of Oxford to gain access to the university’s biobank Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD). Evotec will initially study samples from 1,000 donors using a comprehensive multi-omics analysis. Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

Harbour Biomed, of Shanghai, presented data on HBM-1022, a monoclonal antibody targeting C-C chemokine receptor type 8 (CCR8), at the 16th PEGS Boston Summit. In a preclinical model, the antibody, tested as a monotherapy and in combination with Keytruda (pembrolizumab, Merck & Co. Inc.), depleted a subpopulation of tumor resident CCR8+ Tregs in the tumor microenvironment and inhibited tumor growth. HBM-1022 also blocked the binding of CCL1 to CCR8.

Highlight Therapeutics SL, of Madrid, Spain, and Merck & Co. Inc., of Kenilworth, N.J., are collaborating to test Highlight’s BO-112 with Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in patients with refractory advanced malignant melanoma who have progressed on anti-PD-1-based therapy. The study, dubbed Spotlight 203, will enroll 40 patients and measure response rate as the primary endpoint.

Igyxos SA, of Nouzilly, France, and Selexis SA, of Geneva, are partnering to develop a treatment for infertility. Igyxos will utilize Selexis’ Suretechnology platform to discover a monoclonal antibody that boosts the bioactivity of endogenous and exogenous gonadotropins.

Magenta Therapeutics Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said it is part of a multiproject, broad-based research effort awarded a five-year, $14.6 million U19 grant from the U.S. NIH to explore gene- and cell-based approaches to advance research into curing HIV. The team, which also includes researchers from the University of Southern California, the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Ragon Institute, will explore novel hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell engineering and transplantation approaches aimed at achieving complete remission of HIV-1 infection.

Menlo Therapeutics Inc., of Bridgewater, N.J., is changing its name to Vyne Therapeutics Inc. The company will begin trading on Nasdaq under its new ticker, VYNE, on Sept. 8.

Oncimmune Holdings plc., of Nottingham, U.K., signed an autoantibody profiling collaboration with an undisclosed global biopharmaceutical company. The study will test for autoantibodies in patients enrolled in a clinical trial testing an immune checkpoint inhibitor. The program is scheduled to complete in the second quarter of 2021.

Orca Bio Inc., of Menlo Park, Calif., and Lyell Immunopharma Inc., of South San Francisco, are partnering to develop T-cell therapies to treat solid tumors. Orca will provide its expertise in precision purification T-cell technologies, while Lyell will add its scientific expertise in T-cell biology. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Parnell Pharmaceuticals Holdings, of San Rafael, Calif., has developed Nomovid, a nasal spray prophylaxis designed to prevent COVID-19. The treatment was greater than 99.9% effective in vitro against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The company has applied for funding from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed and asked for an emergency use authorization.

Pharmabcine Inc., of Daejeon, South Korea, signed a contract with Binex Co. Ltd., of Busan Metropolitan City, South Korea, to produce olinvacimab (TTAC-0001), a monoclonal antibody targeting VEGFR2, in a 5,000 L production line.

Preveceutical Medical Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, has developed several lead peptides in its non-addictive analgesic program. The company is currently testing the candidates in an inflammatory pain model with data expected shortly.

Revive Therapeutics Ltd., of Toronto, entered a clinical trial agreement with the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System to run a phase I study testing psilocybin in patients with methamphetamine use disorder.

Santhera Pharmaceuticals Holding AG, of Pratteln, Switzerland, exercised its option to obtain worldwide rights to vamorolone from Idorsia Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Allschwil, Switzerland, and Reveragen Biopharma Inc., of Rockville, Md. To facilitate the early option exercise, the terms of the license were amended so Idorsia will receive 366,667 shares in Santhera. Milestone payments by Santhera up to and including potential FDA approval were reduced by $18 million to $72 million. Santhera will pay Reveragen $7 million, payable in monthly instalments of up to $500,000, to fund development, including the phase IIb Vision-DMD study. Reveragen is eligible for a $5 million payment when the FDA signs off on an IND for a phase IIb study. Santhera is also obligated to pay a non-interest bearing exchangeable note to Idorsia in the amount of CHF10 million (US$10.95 million) and $50 million (down from $60 million) for FDA approval.

Sorrento Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, closed its $19.4 million acquisition of Smartpharm Therapeutics Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco, said it filed to effect a 1-for-10 reverse stock split, effective at 5 p.m. ET Sept. 2, intended to enable the firm to regain compliance with the $1 minimum bid requirement for continued listing on Nasdaq.

Twist Bioscience Corp., of South San Francisco, reported in vitro data showing its therapeutic antibodies, both immunoglobulin G antibodies and smaller single domain VHH nanobodies, were able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.

Walvax Biotechnology Co. Ltd., of Yunnan China, reached an agreement with Körber AG, of Lüneburg, Germany, to implement Körber’s Werum PAS-X MES, in Walvax’s manufacturing plant in Yuxi, China.

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