Artificial intelligence can identify microscopic marine organisms

Tech Xplore | February 06, 2019

Researchers have developed artificial intelligence (AI) program that can automatically provide species-level identification of microscopic marine organisms. The next step is to incorporate the AI into a robotic system that will help advance our understanding of the world's oceans, both now and in our prehistoric past. Specifically, the AI program has proven capable of identifying six species of foraminifera, or forams – organisms that have been prevalent in Earth's oceans for more than 100 million years.
Forams are protists, neither plant nor animal. When they die, they leave behind their tiny shells, most less than a millimeter wide. These shells give scientists insights into the characteristics of the oceans as they existed when the forams were alive. For example, different types of foram species thrive in different kinds of ocean environments, and chemical measurements can tell scientists about everything from the ocean's chemistry to its temperature when the shell was being formed.

Spotlight

In the BioPharma industry, it’s becoming increasingly important that systems support the processes of the company. There are many ways in this heavily regulated industry in which a company can inadvertently step out of compliance. Honeywell builds its systems to serve these industries. By designing systems that help support compliance with these regulations, Honeywell makes it easier for companies to ensure that their processes are doing exactly what they are supposed to do.

Spotlight

In the BioPharma industry, it’s becoming increasingly important that systems support the processes of the company. There are many ways in this heavily regulated industry in which a company can inadvertently step out of compliance. Honeywell builds its systems to serve these industries. By designing systems that help support compliance with these regulations, Honeywell makes it easier for companies to ensure that their processes are doing exactly what they are supposed to do.

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT

Novaliq submits New Drug Application seeking approval for first-of-a-kind Dry Eye Disease Treatment CyclASol®

Novaliq GmbH | August 10, 2022

Novaliq, a biopharmaceutical company focusing on first- and best-in-class ocular therapeutics based on the unique EyeSol® water-free technology, announced the submission of a New Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking approval for CyclASol® a proposed novel treatment for the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease. CyclASol® has demonstrated in two pivotal studies fast onset of therapeutic effect in the indication, clinical meaningful improvement of ocular surface damage, and excellent tolerability. Results from a 12-month long-term study confirmed that the effects are maintained, and even improved for most sign and symptom endpoints. "This is the first submission of a novel product category of water-free topical drug therapies utilizing EyeSol® as a drug carrier. CyclASol® is a first-of-a-kind drug therapy and aims to expand treatment success for patients with dry eye disease and their eye care professionals. If approved by the FDA, CyclASol® addresses important unmet medical needs in DED through its ocular surface healing effect combined with high comfort of administration." Christian Roesky, Ph.D., CEO, Novaliq Dry eye is one of the most common ocular surface disorders, with approximately 18 million Americans diagnosed with DED.1,2 Inflammation and immunologic processes play a key role in the pathology of the disease. A compromised ocular surface secondary to DED may also compromise refractive measurements before keratorefractive and phacorefractive surgeries and adversely impact expected visual outcomes after these surgeries.3,4 The impact of the corneal surface damage secondary to DED on visual function is an underestimated aspect of the disease. Multiple guidelines recommend treatment of the corneal surface damage prior to ocular procedures. A high unmet need remains for better tolerated drugs with an early onset of therapeutic effect, which are compelling to be used and prescribed.5,6 "We are very proud to see another product rapidly moving to the market, which marks yet another important inflection point and milestone in Novaliq's growth trajectory", said Dr. Mathias Hothum, board member and managing director of dievini. "We are currently evaluating the commercialization strategies which includes talking to interested parties." About CyclASol® CyclASol® is a first-of-a-kind topical treatment of cyclosporine, a potent anti-inflammatory and selective immunomodulatory drug. Whilst not water-soluble, cyclosporine is soluble in the EyeSol® excipient perfluorobutylpentane allowing for its improved bioavailability and better efficacy on the target tissue. The product contains no oils, no surfactants and is preservative-free due to the novel carrier. This provides additional clinical benefits for patients, such as improved tolerability and decreased visual disturbances. The NDA is supported by safety and efficacy results in over 1,000 patients with DED from a Phase 2 dose finding study, the Phase 2b/3 ESSENCE-1 study, the Phase 3 ESSENCE-2 study and its open label extension study.7,8 CyclASol® has demonstrated in two independent adequate and well-controlled, multicenter studies clinically meaningful and statistically significant improvements in the indication. Effects on the ocular surface include a statistically significant reduction in total corneal fluorescein staining score favoring CyclASol® in both studies at Days 15 and 29. Up to 71.6% of patients responded within four weeks with a clinically meaningful improvement of ≥ 3 grades in total corneal staining. This proportion of responders was significantly higher compared to vehicle-treated patients in both studies. Responders showed also statistically significant improvements in a variety of symptoms compared to non-responders at day 29. The ASCRS guidelines recognize corneal staining as the single most important clinical sign of DED as it indicates the level of epithelial damage and visual impairment, and if left undertreated, DED can become chronic and more difficult to treat.3 Effect on tear production: In both studies, compared to vehicle at the end of treatment, there was a statistically significant (p<0.05) higher percentage of patients with increases of ≥ 10 mm from baseline in Schirmer's tear test score at Day 85 and Day 29, respectively, confirming a known effect of the active ingredient cyclosporine. Meeting this endpoint in two independent studies is clinically meaningful on its own and considered to demonstrate efficacy for the treatment of signs and symptoms of DED. Head-to-head data versus Restasis™ from the phase 2 study suggest that CyclASol® has a stronger and faster therapeutic effect on the ocular surface.8 Maintenance of effect results from the long-term study CYS-005 confirmed that the effect of CyclASol® was maintained, and even improved for most endpoints, over the 52-week treatment period. Safety and Tolerability: Tolerability of CyclASol® was shown by high drop comfort patient ratings in both studies. The most common adverse reaction observed was instillation site reactions, which was reported in 8.1% of patients in the pooled studies. These were in all but one case mild. The only other adverse reaction reported in > 2% of the patients was visual acuity reduced (2.7%). About Novaliq Novaliq is a biopharmaceutical company focusing on the development and commercialization of first- and best-in-class ocular therapeutics based on EyeSol®, the worldwide first water-free technology. EyeSol® is Novaliq's proprietary water-free technology using ultrapure semifluorinated alkanes (SFAs) that are physically, chemically, and physiologically inert with excellent biocompatibility and a very good safety profile. Novaliq offers an industry-leading portfolio addressing today's unmet medical needs of millions of patients with eye diseases.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

SQZ Biotechnologies and Collaborators Publish Technology Review on SQZ® APCs and Effective CD8 T Cell Activation

SQZ Biotechnologies | July 13, 2022

SQZ Biotechnologies Company focused on unlocking the full potential of cell therapies for multiple therapeutic areas, announced the publication of a technical review examining the ability of SQZ® Antigen Presenting Cells to activate CD8 T cells through MHC-I antigen presentation, an approach that may enable a more powerful T cell response and infiltration into solid tumors. Published in ESMO’s Immuno-Oncology and Technology journal, the review further explores the advantages of the company’s Cell Squeeze® technology in cell engineering and manufacturing as well as potential opportunities to develop additional clinical candidates with enhanced capabilities. “In this review, for patients with solid tumors, we discuss the critical need to generate CD8 T cell penetration into the tumor microenvironment. Activation of CD8 T cells through MHC-I antigen presentation is a promising approach and is being tested in the SQZ-PBMC-HPV-101 clinical trial where we’ve seen increases in CD8 T cell tumor infiltration and clinical benefit in a refractory patient with HPV16-mediated cancer. We look forward to potentially building on these early results through combination with various immunomodulatory drugs, such as checkpoint inhibitors.” lead author Jong Chul Park, MD, Medical Oncologist, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, and SQZ® cell therapy trial site investigator SQZ has three ongoing Phase 1/2 clinical trials aiming to drive CD8 T cell responses against HPV16+ solid tumors. Given the broad relevance of CD8 T cell responses across tumors, the authors highlight potential for future expansion of development programs into additional areas such as mutant KRAS, mutant TP53, EBV, and other patient-specific antigens. About SQZ-PBMC-HPV SQZ-PBMC-HPV is the company’s Antigen Presenting Cell (APC) autologous cell therapy clinical candidate and is derived from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), primarily composed of monocytes, T cells, B cells, and NK cells, and engineered with tumor specific E6 and E7 peptide antigens. It received FDA fast track designation in April 2022. In December 2021, the company presented clinical data at the European Society for Medical Oncology Immuno-Oncology (ESMO-IO) congress that included a checkpoint refractory head-and-neck cancer patient who demonstrated a radiographic, symptomatic, and immune response in the monotherapy cohort of the Phase 1/2 clinical trial. SQZ-PBMC-HPV-101 Trial Design SQZ-PBMC-HPV is being evaluated in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial for the treatment of HPV16+ advanced or metastatic solid tumors. Patients must be positive for the human leukocyte antigen serotype HLA-A*02. The investigational candidate, which targets E6 and E7 oncoproteins, is being studied as a monotherapy and in combination with immuno-oncology agents. The study’s primary outcome measures in the monotherapy and combination phases of the trial include safety and tolerability. Antitumor activity is a secondary outcome measure in both the monotherapy and combination phases of the trial, and manufacturing feasibility is a secondary outcome measure in the monotherapy phase of the trial. The monotherapy phase of the study includes escalating dose cohorts with a dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) window of 28 days and is designed to identify a recommended phase 2 dose. The planned combination phase of the study will include SQZ-PBMC-HPV and checkpoint inhibitors. DLT will be measured over 42 days. About Human Papillomavirus Positive Cancers Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common viruses worldwide and certain strains persist for many years, often leading to cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the United States HPV+ tumors represent 3% of all cancers in women and 2% of all cancers in men, resulting in over 39,000 new cases of HPV+ tumors every year. HPV infection is larger outside of the U.S., and according to the International Journal of Cancer, HPV+ tumors account for 4.5% of all cancers worldwide resulting in approximately 630,000 new cases every year. According to the CDC, HPV infection plays a significant role in the formation of more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers, and most cases of vaginal (75%), oropharyngeal (70%), vulval (70%) and penile (60%) cancers. About SQZ Biotechnologies SQZ Biotechnologies is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on unlocking the full potential of cell therapies to benefit patients with cancer, autoimmune and infectious diseases. The company’s proprietary Cell Squeeze® technology offers the unique ability to deliver multiple biological materials into many patient cell types to engineer what we believe can be a broad range of potential therapeutics. Our goal is to create well-tolerated cell therapies that can provide therapeutic benefit for patients and improve the patient experience over existing cell therapy approaches. With accelerated production timelines under 24 hours and the opportunity to eliminate preconditioning and lengthy hospital stays, our approach could change the way people think about cell therapies. The company’s first therapeutic applications seek to generate target-specific immune responses, both in activation for the treatment of solid tumors and in immune tolerance for the treatment of unwanted immune reactions and autoimmune diseases.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Rocket Pharmaceuticals to Acquire Renovacor, Extending Leadership in AAV-based Cardiac Gene Therapy

Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. | September 21, 2022

Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a leading late-stage, clinical biotechnology company advancing an integrated and sustainable pipeline of genetic therapies for rare childhood disorders with high unmet need, and Renovacor, Inc. a biotechnology company focused on delivering innovative precision therapies to improve the lives of patients and families battling genetically-driven cardiovascular and mechanistically-related diseases, today announced a definitive agreement under which Rocket will acquire Renovacor in an all-stock transaction for an implied value of approximately $2.60 per share, based on the volume weighted average trading price of Rocket shares of $15.51 for the 30 trading days through and including Monday, September 19, 2022. The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the transaction, which is currently expected to close by the first quarter of 2023. “The acquisition of Renovacor aligns with our strategy to expand our leadership position in AAV-based gene therapy for cardiac disease and gives us a perfect opportunity to continue on our mission to transform the lives of heart failure patients through the power of gene therapy. Building on our success in Danon Disease to date, I am particularly excited to expand our cardiology focus and capabilities and address a clear unmet medical need in BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. By combining Renovacor’s compelling preclinical work with our joint clinical, regulatory and CMC expertise, we believe we will be well-positioned to bring the highest impact gene therapy with the best chance for success to these patients in the most productive and efficient manner possible.” Gaurav Shah, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Rocket Dr. Shah continued, “Given the positive pediatric safety data previously announced from our Phase 1 RP-A501 Danon Disease program, and the upcoming pediatric efficacy data and longer-term adult cohort data we anticipate presenting at the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) Scientific Meeting at the end of this month, this strategic acquisition gives us what we believe is the broadest platform in the field to address these devastating rare cardiac diseases. Furthermore, the acquisition will bring to Rocket key personnel, namely a team of leading cardiology drug development experts, critical capabilities, and valuable IP to support continued development of the BAG3 as well as other potential cardiac programs, including a gene therapy research collaboration for arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.” Renovacor’s most advanced program, REN-001, is an AAV-based gene therapy targeting BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a severe form of heart failure. BAG3-DCM represents a significant unmet medical need in a patient population with rapidly progressive cardiac dysfunction in whom no treatments targeting the underlying mechanism of disease exist. Renovacor has deep technical expertise in the development of precision therapies that address genetically driven cardiac diseases. Further, Renovacor is supported by world-class scientific collaborators, a robust intellectual property portfolio and personnel with expertise in BAG3-DCM. These assets and capabilities, all together, represent tremendous value and will enhance Rocket’s leading position in cardiac AAV-based gene therapy. “Renovacor has made tremendous progress in advancing targeted gene therapies to address the high unmet medical needs of patients living with genetically driven forms of heart disease,” said Magdalene Cook, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Renovacor. “Our experienced team is excited to join Rocket in a shared vision of broadening patient access to precision medicines for cardiovascular disease and addressing common barriers jointly. We look forward to combining the considerable resources and expertise of Renovacor and Rocket in creating a category leader in the precision cardiology field. As a result of this combination, we will be suspending current guidance regarding preclinical and clinical timelines for our programs as we evaluate these items with the Rocket team.” It is currently anticipated that the transaction will close by the first quarter of 2023, subject to approval by Renovacor and Rocket shareholders, receipt of any required customary regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. RTW Investments, LP, a significant shareholder of both Rocket and Renovacor, has entered into a voting agreement with Renovacor, pursuant to which they have agreed, among other things, and subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement, to vote in favor of the Renovacor acquisition as a Rocket stockholder. SVB Securities is serving as exclusive financial advisor and Goodwin Procter LLP is serving as legal counsel to Rocket. Wells Fargo Securities is serving as exclusive financial advisor and Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP is serving as legal counsel to Renovacor. About Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is advancing an integrated and sustainable pipeline of genetic therapies that correct the root cause of complex and rare childhood disorders. The Company’s platform-agnostic approach enables it to design the best therapy for each indication, creating potentially transformative options for patients afflicted with rare genetic diseases. Rocket's clinical programs using lentiviral vector (LVV)-based gene therapy are for the treatment of Fanconi Anemia (FA), a difficult to treat genetic disease that leads to bone marrow failure and potentially cancer, Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency-I (LAD-I), a severe pediatric genetic disorder that causes recurrent and life-threatening infections which are frequently fatal, and Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD), a rare, monogenic red blood cell disorder resulting in increased red cell destruction and mild to life-threatening anemia. Rocket’s first clinical program using adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy is for Danon Disease, a devastating, pediatric heart failure condition. About Renovacor Renovacor is a biotechnology company focused on delivering innovative precision therapies to improve the lives of patients and families battling genetically-driven cardiovascular and mechanistically-related diseases. The company’s lead program in BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) uses gene transfer technology to address the monogenic cause of this severe form of heart failure. Renovacor’s vision is to bring life-changing therapies to patients living with serious genetic cardiovascular and related diseases, by developing medicines that target the underlying cause of disease and provide a transformative benefit and significant improvement to quality of life.

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