AIkido Pharma Inc., of New York, said two lead compounds targeting the super killer, or SKI, complex were optimized, using computer assisted learning, through two rounds of chemical modifications to achieve drug-like properties to move them into animal testing. A third lead compound also was identified to advance into optimization. The agents are in testing against Influenza virus, with testing on SARS-CoV-2 planned for the near future. The top analogues from each series of lead candidates will be tested for antiviral effect in a SARS-CoV-2 mouse model.

Amyris Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., reported that preliminary data from a preclinical study of its RNA COVID-19 vaccine platform using a nanostructured lipid carrier exclusively licensed from the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) showed antibody production against the COVID-19 spike protein using a self-adjuvating RNA vaccine. The company said results were consistent with data published by Moderna Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and partners Pfizer Inc., of New York, and Biontech SE, of Mainz, Germany, on their respective messenger RNA technologies. The Amyris/IDRI platform uses commercially available lipids and detergents and conventional oil-in-water emulsion technology, potentially offering manufacturing, storage and distribution advantages over current technologies. Amyris is preparing to advance the RNA vaccine candidate into phase I trials with the support of the Portuguese government and other partnerships.

Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc., of San Diego, said it acquired an exclusive license from Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Boston, to inventions related to nucleic acid purification technologies. The technology is designed to enable larger-scale and faster production of mRNA. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Athena Bioscience LLC, of Athens, Ga., received exclusive right to commercialize a long-acting antihypertensive product being developed using technology from Tris Pharma Inc., of Monmouth, Junction, N.J. Tris’ Liquixr technology platform has been used to develop the company’s portfolio of differentiated solid and liquid ADHD products.

Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Co. Ltd., of New Haven, Conn., said that BHV-1200, a hyperimmune globulin mimic developed using its monoclonal antibody therapy enhancer (MATE) platform, showed functional binding and neutralization of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) and B.1.351 (South African) variants. Preliminary experiments conducted by the company and an academic collaborator showed that BHV-1200 reduced viral entry into cells. In vitro data also indicated that BHV-1200 may activate immune system components, including antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. The company said its MATE conjugation technology could be used against other infectious diseases by changing the targeting moiety of its antibody binders.

Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. (CBMG), of Rockville, Md., and Shanghai, said it completed its merger with CBMG Merger Sub Inc., a Delaware corporation, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of CBMG Holdings, an exempted company with limited liability incorporated in the Cayman Islands. In August 2020, CBMG’s largest shareholders disclosed the plan to take the U.S.-China cell therapy developer private. The agreement calling for stockholders to receive $19.75 in cash for each outstanding common share was approved by stockholders at a special meeting on Feb. 8, 2021. As a result of the transaction, the company’s common shares were delisted from Nasdaq, where they traded as CBMG.

Compugen Ltd., of Holon, Israel, said it expanded its clinical collaboration agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (BMS), of New York. The amended agreement calls for BMS to supply its PD-1 inhibitor, Opdivo (nivolumab), for Compugen's phase Ib cohort expansion study to assess COM-701, an anti-PVRIG antibody, in combination with Opdivo in selected cancer indications, potentially including ovarian, breast, endometrial and microsatellite-stable colorectal cancers. The study is expected to begin enrolling in the second quarter of 2021.

Diaprost AB, of Lund, Sweden, said findings from a preclinical study conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on the company’s hu5A10 antibody targeting hormone-refractory prostate cancer were published in Clinical Cancer Research. The evaluation of radiolabeled hu5A10-based compounds in prostate cancer mouse models and nonhuman primates showed the theranostic agent allowed specific and effective delivery of radionuclides to androgen receptor driven prostate tissue.

Horizon Therapeutics plc, of Dublin, said results of a thyroid eye disease (TED) quality of life (QOL) assessment presented at the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society 2021 virtual annual meeting quantified the burden to patients during both the acute and chronic disease phases. Based on an online survey of 100 patients with chronic TED, findings showed that people with the worst QOL reported the highest number of signs and symptoms, citing orbital pain, blurry vision, light sensitivity and diplopia as having the greatest influence on QOL. Symptoms present during the acute phase commonly persisted into the chronic phase, including ocular dryness/grittiness, light sensitivity, blurry vision and pain behind the eyes. Forty-two percent of respondents reported anxiety or depression. Interventions such as surgery and use of oral or intravenous glucocorticoids did not lead to a higher QOL during chronic TED.

Maxivax SA, of Geneva, and contract development and manufacturing organization Minaris Regenerative Medicine GmbH, of Munich, Germany, said they agreed to form a manufacturing partnership for MVX-ONCO-2, a cell-based immunotherapy to treat solid tumors such as chordoma and head and neck. Minaris assumed responsibility for GMP manufacturing, freezing and shipping of the autologous cell-based vaccine, delivered through genetically reprogrammed encapsulated capsules, to clinical sites. The agreement includes process development for scale-up and technology transfer, with the goal of supplying phase II and III studies initially in the EU and eventually in the U.S.

Vaccinex Inc., of Rochester, N.Y., said Surface Oncology Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., will be exercising its option to license the anti-CCR8 antibody discovered via Vaccinex’s ActivMA antibody discovery and novel viral display platform. The antibody, SRF-114, is a fully human IgG1 anti-CCR8 antibody that selectively depletes immunosuppressive tumor T regulatory cells (Tregs) while sparing peripheral Tregs. The terms of agreement provided that Surface pay technology access and licensing fees in addition to research funding, and that Vaccinex will qualify for development milestone payments and royalties.

Wugen Inc., of St. Louis, signed an exclusive license agreement with Washington University in St. Louis for the development of Wugen's memory natural killer (NK) cell program. Memory NK cells have been demonstrated in the clinic to be safe and effective, with several significant advantages over existing therapies, the company noted. Terms were not disclosed.