Abfero Ltd., a subsidiary of privately held Abfero Pharmaceuticals Inc., said it received a grant from Cure Parkinson’s to develop Abfero’s lead, brain-penetrating chelating agent, SP-420, as a disease-modifying therapy for treating Parkinson’s disease. The funding will be used to develop biomarkers to demonstrate that SP-420 is an effective targeted therapy for Parkinson's. This is the second grant Abfero has received to support development of SP-420 for the condition, following recent funding from Eureka Eurostars.
MC2 Therapeutics A/S, of Copenhagen, granted Almirall SA, of Barcelona, exclusive European rights to commercialize Wynzora Cream for treating plaque psoriasis. In exchange, MC2 is eligible to receive €15 million (US$18.07 million) up-front plus sales milestone payments and double-digit royalties on European sales. Wynzora Cream (50 µg/g calcipotriol and 0.5 mg/g betamethasone as dipropionate) received FDA approval in July 2020 and is under review in Europe.
Positive preclinical data from Artelo Biosciences Inc., of La Jolla, Calif., showed potential pharmacodynamic interactions of co-administration of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetramethylpyrazine (TMP) in cell-based models of cancer. The research focused on the components of Artelo’s proprietary CBD:TMP cocrystal program, ART-12.11. The data showed synergistic and additive interactions between CBD and TMP in their abilities to prevent cancer cell growth and to kill cancer cells, according to the company. However, the company added, there was also a small reduction in the anti-migratory effect of CBD when TMP was present.
Bionomics Ltd., of Adelaide, Australia, and Empathbio Inc. will research a combination drug treatment regimen with Bionomics' BNC-210 and Empathbio's 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) derivative, EMP-01. The companies will explore whether the different mechanisms of action of EMP-01 and BNC210 may offer potential for developing an improved treatment regimen for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). BNC-210 is Bionomics' lead drug candidate and was granted fast track designation by the FDA for treating PTSD and other trauma-related and stress-related disorders. Empathbio is developing MDMA derivatives to treating PTSD and other indications.
Century Therapeutics LLC, of Philadelphia, said it will expand its operational and lab space by adding 17,000 square feet either at or near its Market Street headquarters. Century also said it signed a lease to build an in-house cGMP manufacturing facility in Branchburg, N.J. Century’s genetically engineering, universal iPSC-derived immune effector cell products are designed to target hematologic and solid tumor cancers.
Emercell, of Montpelier, France, said it signed a strategic partnership with Onward Therapeutics SA, of Lausanne, Switzerland, which is making an investment in three installments of confidential amounts in Emercell. Emercell said it developed and patented a process to produce a therapeutic tool composed of natural killer cells. Its lead candidate, NK-001, is designed to treat CD20-positive lymphomas in patients refractory to conventional therapies.
Ferring Pharmaceuticals Inc., Rebiotix Inc. and Mybiotics Pharma Ltd. entered a multiyear collaboration to develop live microbiota-based biotherapeutics to treat bacterial vaginosis, which is linked to increased risk of miscarriage and complications for pregnancy and fertility. The collaboration is composed of Mybiotics’ culturing, delivery and colonization technologies aimed at restoring microbiome equilibrium with Rebiotix’s expertise in developing clinical-stage live microbiota-based biotherapeutic products, and Ferring’s therapeutic development and commercial expertise.
Glaxosmithkline plc, of London, and San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology Inc. have expanded a collaboration started in the realm of COVID-19 to now encompass R&D on new therapies for influenza and other respiratory viruses as well. Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will make an up-front payment of $225 million and a further equity investment in Vir of $120 million. Initially, Vir will continue to fund the development of VIR-2482 through completion of phase II trials. After that, if GSK exercises its option to co-develop the influenza A prophylactic VIR-2482, it will pay an option fee of $300 million. Following the option exercise, and for each other program in the expanded collaboration, the companies will share the development costs and related profits associated with the agreement. GSK could also pay Vir up to $200 million in regulatory milestones. The companies continue to work on antibodies from Vir's portfolio, including VIR-7832, a COVID-19 spike glycoprotein modulator now under evaluation in two global phase III studies as a monotherapy and one phase II study as combination therapy.
Immunitas Therapeutics Inc., of Waltham, Mass., highlighted an analysis of tumor infiltrating T cells that identified the NK gene KLRB1, which encodes the protein CD161, as a potential inhibitory receptor on both NK and T cells with possible application as a target in cancer immunotherapy. "These results highlight the potential of single cell genomics to help us better understand the interactions between immune cells and cancer cells, and to identify new targets for therapeutic intervention in serious and complex diseases," said Kai Wucherpfennig, the company's scientific co-founder and corresponding author of the analysis, published in the journal Cell.
Maxwell Biosciences Inc., an Austin, Texas-based company developing a new class of small-molecule antivirals, said it has licensed patents developed in the New York University lab of its newly appointed chief scientific officer, Kent Kirshenbaum. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Moderna Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said the European Commission purchased an additional 150 million doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine. Deliveries of the doses are scheduled for the third and fourth quarter, bringing the EC's confirmed order commitment to 310 million doses for delivery this year. Under the terms of the agreement, the European Commission has the option to purchase an additional 150 million doses to be delivered in 2022.
Nascent Biotech Inc., of San Diego, said it plans to advance its lead candidate, the human anti-vimentin antibody pritumumab, into animal testing for the potential treatment of COVID-19 after Syracuse University researchers said it successfully blocked 80% of SARS-CoV-2 viral entry into cells. The preliminary report was published in a preprint paper on Biorxiv. Nascent is also advancing the candidate, originally developed at the University of California San Diego, for the potential treatment of cancer, including glioma.
Nektar Therapeutics Inc., of San Francisco, said it has established a clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with Merck & Co. Inc. for a phase II/III study of bempegaldesleukin (NKTR-214), an investigational IL-2 pathway agent, in combination with Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or unresectable recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck whose tumors express PD-L1. The study, which is expected to enroll 500 patients, is planned to start in the second half of 2021. Nektar will work with SFJ Pharmaceuticals Inc. to support the trial. SFJ has agreed to fund up to $150 million to support the study and manage clinical trial operations. In return, Nektar agreed to pay SFJ success-based annual milestone payments over a period of seven to eight years, contingent on receipt of certain U.S. regulatory approvals for specified indications. Those payments would begin following completion of the head and neck cancer study, projected to wrap up in 2024.
Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland, said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has agreed to fund the discovery and development of a single-administration, in vivo gene therapy to cure sickle cell disease. The foundation will fund a research team within the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research wholly dedicated to developing an approach to delivering the potential treatment, while Novartis will provide in-kind support and access to its suite of technologies and resources.
Clinical research organization Open Orphan plc, of London, said its COVID-19 characterization study received approval from a specially convened research ethics committee following the U.K. government’s contract with Open Orphan subsidiary Hvivo Ltd. to develop a COVID-19 human challenge study model. The initial virus characterization study will inoculate up to 90 volunteers aged 18 to 30 years of age with SARS-CoV-2, produced under Hvivo’s supervision, to enable identification of the most appropriate dose needed to cause COVID-19 infection in a controlled environment. The study, conducted by Hvivo and sponsored by Imperial College London, is expected to begin recruiting participants shortly.
Pfizer Inc., of New York, and Mainz, Germany-based Biontech SE, said the European Commission has agreed to acquire an additional 200 million doses of Comirnaty, the pair's COVID-19 vaccine, along with an option to buy up to 100 million doses more. The new agreement is in addition to the 300 million doses that have already been committed to the EU through 2021 under the first supply agreement the parties signed last year. The additional 200 million doses are expected to be delivered this year, with an estimated 75 million to be supplied in the second quarter.
Revive Therapeutics Ltd., of Toronto, entered into an asset purchase agreement with Newscope Capital Corp. to acquire the full rights to Pharmather Inc.'s intellectual property pertaining to psilocybin for up to C$10 million. Revive will also pay Newscope a low single digit royalty on all future net sales of products derived from the assets.
Scynexis Inc., of Jersey City, N.J., said Shanghai-based Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. has agreed to develop and seek approval for the company's broad-spectrum antifungal agent ibrexafungerp in Greater China. Hansoh, which would also commercialize the approved product there, paid Scynexis $10 million up front and could pay it milestones of up to $122 million more, plus low double-digit royalty payments. Scynexis said the deal extended its cash runway into 2023 while preserving commercial rights in other regions.
Theragnostics Ltd., of London, announced a research collaboration with Essen University Hospital to examine Theragnostics' investigational agent THG-008 for PET imaging in a range of cancers. THG-008 is a fluorine-18 radiolabeled PARP inhibitor.