Bioengineers program cells as digital signal processors

Synthetic biologists have added high-precision analog-to-digital signal processing to the genetic circuitry of living cells. The research, described online today in the journal Science, dramatically expands the chemical, physical and environmental cues engineers can use to prompt programmed responses from engineered organisms. Using a biochemical process called cooperative assembly, Caleb Bashor of Rice University, Ahmad “Mo” Khalil of Boston University (BU) and colleagues from MIT, Harvard, the Broad Institute and Brandeis University engineered genetic circuits that were able to both decode frequency-dependent signals and conduct dynamic signal filtering. “You can think about cooperativity as the same type of signal-processing feature that gives you an analog-to-digital converter, a device that takes something that’s basically linear and turns it into something switchlike,” said Bashor, co-lead author of the study and an assistant professor of bioengineering in Rice’s Brown School of Engineering. Synthetically engineering cooperative assembly allowed the researchers to perform the type of combinatorial signal processing that cells naturally and elegantly do to accomplish intricate tasks, like those in embryonic development and differentiation.

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Heron Therapeutics Announces FDA Approval of ZYNRELEF® Indication Expansion to Include Additional Orthopedic and Soft Tissue Procedures

Heron Therapeutics, Inc. | January 29, 2024

Heron Therapeutics, Inc. a commercial-stage biotechnology company announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the "FDA") has approved its supplemental New Drug Application ("NDA") for ZYNRELEF® extended-release solution to expand the indication for soft tissue and orthopedic surgical procedures including foot and ankle, and other procedures in which direct exposure to articular cartilage is avoided. ZYNRELEF was previously approved for foot and ankle, small-to-medium open abdominal, and lower extremity total joint arthroplasty surgical procedures in adults. This expanded indication for ZYNRELEF will now cover an estimated 13 million procedures annually, an estimated increase of 86% over prior indicated procedures. To obtain this labeling expansion, Heron successfully conducted studies for cesarean section, spinal surgery, augmentation mammoplasty, and total shoulder arthroplasty. No unique safety issues were identified from the new clinical trials, and the bupivacaine and meloxicam blood concentrations were consistent with previous experience following ZYNRELEF administration. "The expanded indication is poised to have a transformative impact on patient care, providing healthcare professionals with a versatile and effective solution for managing postoperative pain across an even wider range of surgical procedures. The new label expansion and recent partnership with CrossLink, combined with the potential approval of the Vial Access Needle ("VAN") later this year, are expected to have a significant positive impact for ZYNRELEF and the Company," said Craig Collard, Chief Executive Officer of Heron. "We're excited for the opportunity to give even more healthcare providers and patients a new, safe and effective option for achieving long-lasting non-opioid pain control after painful surgical procedures," said Bill Forbes, Executive Vice President, Chief Development Officer at Heron. "This new approval further reinforces our commitment to providing meaningful solutions to address unmet medical needs in the acute care and oncology settings." ZYNRELEF is the first and only therapy for postoperative pain management to be rigorously tested in Phase 3 studies and demonstrate superiority to bupivacaine solution, the current standard-of-care. ZYNRELEF demonstrated superiority compared to bupivacaine with lower pain scores, fewer patients experiencing severe pain, and lower opioid consumption. ZYNRELEF was initially approved by the FDA in May 2021 and received approval of the first supplemental NDA for an expanded label in December 2021. "Patients undergoing orthopedic procedures often experience severe pain, slowing down their recovery time and potentially leading to other complications. Reducing patients' pain within the first three days is critical for patient satisfaction, and having a product like ZYNRELEF now available for additional orthopedic procedures is a great benefit to have in my practice," said Alexander Sah, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Sah Orthopaedic Associates. "ZYNRELEF helps my patients recover fully, be discharged sooner, and have significantly less pain, with little to no opioid use." Important Safety Information for Patients ZYNRELEF contains an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), a type of medicine which Can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke that can lead to death. This risk increases with higher doses and longer use of an NSAID. Cannot be used during heart bypass surgery. Can increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, and tears. ZYNRELEF should also not be used if you are allergic to any component of ZYNRELEF, similar local anesthetics, aspirin or other NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or have had an asthma attack, hives, or other allergic reaction after taking any of these medicines. as a paracervical block, during childbirth. The most common side effects of ZYNRELEF are soft tissue procedures: vomiting and orthopedic procedures: constipation and headache. The medicines in ZYNRELEF (a local anesthetic and an NSAID) may affect the nervous and cardiovascular system; may cause liver or kidney problems; may reduce the effects of some blood pressure medicines; should be avoided if you have severe heart failure; may cause adverse effects on cartilage; may cause a rare blood disorder, or life-threatening skin or allergic reactions; may harm your unborn baby if received at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later; and may cause low red blood cells (anemia). Tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions and about all the medicines you take including prescription or over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements to discuss if ZYNRELEF is right for you. Talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects. Report side effects to Heron at 1-844-437-6611 The information provided here is not comprehensive. Please see full Prescribing Information, including Boxed Warning. About ZYNRELEF ZYNRELEF is the first and only dual-acting local anesthetic that delivers a fixed-dose combination of the local anesthetic bupivacaine and a low dose of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug meloxicam. ZYNRELEF is the first and only extended-release local anesthetic to demonstrate in Phase 3 studies significantly reduced pain and significantly increased proportion of patients requiring no opioids through the first 72 hours following surgery compared to bupivacaine solution, the current standard-of-care local anesthetic for postoperative pain control. ZYNRELEF was initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the "FDA") in May 2021 for use in adults for soft tissue or periarticular instillation to produce postsurgical analgesia for up to 72 hours after bunionectomy, open inguinal herniorrhaphy and total knee arthroplasty. In December 2021, the FDA approved an expansion of ZYNRELEF's indication to include foot and ankle, small-to-medium open abdominal, and lower extremity total joint arthroplasty surgical procedures. On January 23, 2024, the FDA approved ZYNRELEF for soft tissue and orthopedic surgical procedures including foot and ankle, and other procedures in which direct exposure to articular cartilage is avoided. Safety and efficacy have not been established in highly vascular surgeries, such as intrathoracic, large multilevel spinal, and head and neck procedures. ZYNRELEF was granted a marketing authorization by the European Commission in September 2020 and by the United Kingdom Regulatory Authority in January 2021. In August 2023, we cancelled the ZYNRELEF U.K. marketing authorization and, in October 2023, we cancelled the ZYNRELEF European Union (EU) marketing authorization, as we do not plan to commercially launch ZYNRELEF in the U.K. or the EU. About Heron Therapeutics, Inc. Heron Therapeutics, Inc. is a commercial-stage biotechnology company focused on improving the lives of patients by developing and commercializing therapeutic innovations that improve medical care. Our advanced science, patented technologies, and innovative approach to drug discovery and development have allowed us to create and commercialize a portfolio of products that aim to advance the standard-of-care for acute care and oncology patients.

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Industry Outlook

Virica Expands Bioprocessing Capabilities with Carleton University Partnership

Virica Biotech | January 17, 2024

Virica Biotech Inc. (“Virica”), a leading developer of cell enhancers for scaling of viral vector as well as cell and gene therapy manufacturing will expand its bioprocessing services through a partnership with Carleton University. Slated to open this spring, Virica’s new facility at the university multiplies the Company’s capacity to provide high throughput virology services for customers looking to optimize production of their cell and gene therapies. “Carleton’s new Health Sciences Building provides us with greater access to modern infrastructure and analytical expertise,” said Jean Simon Diallo, Ph.D., CEO of Virica Biotech. “Their state-of-the-art analytical research facilities and world-class researchers across multiple disciplines open the door to exciting opportunities for partnering with Carleton University as we continue to invest to meet customer demand.” “We are very pleased to welcome Virica Biotech to the Carleton campus,” said Rafik Goubran, Ph.D., Vice-President (Research and International) and Chancellor’s Professor, Carleton University. “This multi-year, multi-million-dollar research and infrastructure partnership will help drive innovation and talent development in the Ottawa region for the creation and manufacturing of advanced therapies.” This partnership expands on Carleton’s history of supporting Ottawa biotechnology companies. The new open concept facility will include high throughput equipment to accelerate Virica’s bioprocess development and optimizations. In addition to expanded modern infrastructure, this new location enables the development and recruitment of world-class talent with experiential learning and training opportunities for Carleton students. Through this partnership, Carleton will coordinate the establishment of a scholarship fund designed to empower graduate students from traditionally underrepresented groups in science. About Virica Biotech Virica develops cell enhancers for viral vectors that improve the yield and quality of vaccines and cell and gene therapies, allowing developers to economically deploy their products at scale. Virica’s Viral Sensitizer (VSE™) platform reduces production inefficiencies caused by anti-viral defenses in manufacturing cells. Purpose formulated VSE combinations substantially increase manufacturing yields and reduce the cost of goods for a range of life-changing products, including vaccines, gene therapies, and cell therapies. About Carleton University Carleton University is a dynamic, research-intensive institution that engages in partnerships to address the world’s most pressing challenges. The university’s corporate collaborations bring together world-class companies, researchers and a new generation of talent with over 30,000 students to deliver innovations and results that are driving a more prosperous, sustainable future.

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Cell and Gene Therapy

Solvias to Perform Release Testing on World's First CRISPR-based Gene-Editing Therapy

Solvias | January 23, 2024

Solvias, a global provider of chemistry, manufacturing, and control (CMC) analytics, announced that it will perform analytical release testing services on the world's first CRISPR/Cas9 genome-edited cell therapy. The company has signed a long-term agreement with Vertex Pharmaceuticals for CASGEVY™ (exagamglogene autotemcel or exa-cel) which received U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD) in patients 12 years and older with recurrent vaso-occlusive crises. Solvias and Vertex Pharmaceuticals have worked together for several years to develop and validate test methods that are critical for the final release of patients' own edited cells, so that they can be delivered back to patients. The companies' collaboration included establishing the testing methods that will be scaled for commercializing CASGEVY. Solvias also has invested significantly in preparing one of its global facilities to support the commercial release work for this transformative therapy. Archie Cullen, Chief Executive Officer, Solvias, stated "Solvias is honored to be playing a critical role in delivering this breakthrough therapy to patients. Our decades of experience offering comprehensive GMP analytical services uniquely positions us to partner with companies in bringing their therapies to market. This collaboration highlights our deep scientific knowledge and creative solutions serving to advance even the most cutting-edge therapies." In addition to gaining FDA approval, CASGEVY recently received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency's (EMA's) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use for conditional approval of the treatment of severe SCD and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia (TDT). About Solvias Solvias is a global provider of chemistry, manufacturing, and control (CMC) analytics to the pharmaceutical, biotech, material science, and cosmetic industries. Its team of scientists and regulatory experts have years of experience in small molecules, biologics, and cell and gene therapies. The company offers comprehensive solutions from raw materials to drug products to final release testing, as well as API development and manufacturing for small molecules. Headquartered near Basel, Switzerland, Solvias operates five facilities to the highest standards and in accordance with ISO, GMP, GLP and FDA regulations.

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