New preclinical data from Akari Therapeutics plc, of New York and London, highlighted the role leukotriene B4 plays in the induction of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) damage and retinal inflammation in the eye. Elevated VEGF is associated with choroidal neovascularization (CNV), the cause of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The study’s laser-induced CNV model suggests one dose of pasylated nomacopan reduced neovascularization by the same amount as Eylea (aflibercept, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.), the company said. The combined impact of bifunctional nomacopan, which inhibits LTB4 and VEGF production, and also inhibits complement C5, may provide a modality for treating a number of serious eye diseases, including uveitis and both dry and wet AMD, the company added.

American Cryostem Corp., of Eatontown, N.J., and Biotherapeutic Labs Corp., of Boca Raton, Fla., entered an R&D, collaboration and marketing agreement in which American Cryostem will optimize cell recovery from the umbilical cord to supply umbilical cord cells for future INDs. Biotherapeutic Labs will market American Cryostem’s products and service. The companies said they plan to validate and standardize an umbilical cord acellular suspension product.

Biolojic Design Ltd., of Tel Aviv, Israel, said it entered a research collaboration and license option agreement with Nektar Therapeutics Inc., of San Francisco, to discover and develop agonistic antibodies that activate a previously undrugged target to autoimmune disease. Financial terms were not disclosed. Biolojic's artificial intelligence technology designs single and multispecific antibodies targeting predefined epitopes.

Enveric Biosciences Inc., of Naples, Fla., said it launched a strategic development collaboration and exclusive supply agreement with Pureform Global Inc., of Los Angeles, to develop cannabidiol (CBD) formulations and delivery technology for treating pain and inflammation resulting from cancer treatments. Enveric’s targets include radiodermatitis and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. Pureform is focused on research, development and commercialization of synthesized CBD and other cannabinoids.

Essa Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Houston, entered a clinical collaboration and supply agreement with Astellas Pharma Inc., of Tokyo, to evaluate Essa's lead candidate, EPI-7386, an N-terminal domain androgen receptor inhibitor, in combination with Astellas and New York-based Pfizer Inc.'s androgen receptor inhibitor, enzalutamide, in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). Essa will sponsor and conduct a phase I/II study to evaluate the safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of the combination of EPI-7386 and enzalutamide in mCRPC patients who have not yet been treated with second-generation anti-androgen therapies. Astellas will supply enzalutamide for the trial. Essa will retain all rights to EPI-7386. The clinical study is expected to start in 2021.

Janone Inc., of Las Vegas, said it entered a definitive agreement to sell it legacy recycling subsidiary, Arca Recycling, to Virland Johnson, Janone’s chief financing officer, for about $25 million. The sale is part of Janone's divestiture of its legacy businesses to focus on its core life science assets. The transaction is expected to close by Aug. 18. Janone is developing non-addictive pain medications. Its lead candidate is JAN-101, a sustained-release form of sodium nitrate designed to treat peripheral artery disease. 

Jubilant Therapeutics Inc., of Bedminster, N.J., said it will collaborate with Boston Children’s Hospital to evaluate its peptidyl arginine deiminase 4 (PAD4) inhibitors to explore the modulation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in preclinical models of neutrophil regulation and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). PAD4 is an enzyme that converts arginine to citrulline in histones and is highly expressed in neutrophils. Histone citrullination has been implicated in the formation of NETs, which the company said are thought to contribute to pro-inflammation and disease progression in many autoimmune disorders including RA, fibrosis, lupus and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Moderna Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said it has shipped trial doses of its variant-specific SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273.351, to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for testing. The candidate tailored to B.1.351, the variant first identified in South Africa. In addition to working on the variant-specific booster candidate, Moderna said, it's working on a multivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, and testing a third dose of mRNA-1273, its product with global emergency use authorizations, as a booster at the 50-µg dose level. Furthermore, it plans to evaluate mRNA-1273.351 and mRNA-1273.211 as a primary vaccination series for people who are seronegative. At the same time, the company said it's making new capital investments to increase capacity at its owned and partnered manufacturing facilities, which it expects will increase global 2022 capacity to approximately 1.4 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, assuming a 100-μg dose. It is also increasing its base plan for 2021 manufacturing from 600 million doses to 700 million doses globally.

Psybio Therapeutics Corp., a Florida-based company with an exclusive license to a Miami University platform for the biosynthesis of psilocybin and other psychoactive molecules, has listed its shares on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol PSYB. The company is led by CEO Evan Levine.

Puretech Health plc, of Boston, highlighted the publication of a research paper in the Journal of Controlled Release, that it said provided further preclinical proof of concept for its Glyph platform technology, which is designed to traffic small-molecule therapeutics directly into the lymphatic system via oral administration. The first candidate from the platform, LYT-300 (oral allopregnanolone), is expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2021.

Selecta Biosciences Inc., of Watertown, Mass., announced the publication of a study in Science Advances investigating the effects of the co-administration of its Immtor nanoparticles to adeno-associated viral vectors on transgene expression in mice. The data demonstrate that Immtor has the potential to enhance transgene expression in the liver at initial dose of AAV vector and that it can increase hepatic vector copy numbers. The company is using the technology in its lead candidate, MMA-101, for the treatment of methylmalonic acidemia in collaboration with Asklepios Biopharmaceutical Inc., of Research Triangle Park, N.C., and for ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency.

T-cypher Bio, of Oxford, U.K., said it has separated from Orbit Discovery Ltd., also of Oxford, to focus on developing a functional, high-throughput, bead-display platform to select therapeutically relevant targets and identify potent, target-specific TCRs for the treatment of solid tumors and other indications.

Viracta Therapeutics Inc., of San Diego, has closed its merger with Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco. Shares of the combined company, operating under the Viracta name, started trading on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol VIRX on Feb. 25. Immediately prior to the closing of the merger, Viracta also closed a previously announced $65 million private placement of its common stock led by BVF Partners LP.

Xencor Inc., of Monrovia, Calif., and the UCLA Technology Development Group signed an agreement to develop therapeutic antibodies, pairing novel targets proposed by scientists at UCLA and utilizing Xencor's modular suite of XmAb technology platforms. Xencor and UCLA have established a streamlined framework to select promising biology, perform collaborative research and license intellectual property, the company said.

Zentalis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New York, and Tempus Inc., of San Diego, signed a collaboration to leverage the latter’s patient-derived organoid biological modeling platform to strengthen Zentalis’ discovery and research capabilities. Tempus’ platform has the ability to grow and recapitulate tumors both genetically and functionally, some of which can be used for DNA repair profiling and research on potential therapeutic sensitivity. The pair will initially aim to validate Zentalis’ WEE1 inhibitor, ZN-c3, and its DNA damage response pathway in genetically distinct patient populations. The platform will also be used to investigate additional novel targets of cancer pathways that may be identified by Zentalis, as well as support the study of Zentalis’ current product candidates across various indications.