Gene Therapy Company Locana Earns $55 Million in Series A Financing

BioSpace | May 23, 2019

Backed by Google and other noted venture capital companies, San Diego-based Locana, Inc.launched with $55 million in a Series A financing round that will be used to expand the company’s pipeline of RNA-targeting gene therapy programs.Locana, which was founded in 2016, will be helmed by Jeffrey Ostrove, the former chief executive officer of AbVitro and Ceregene. The new company will use the funds from the Series A to support its modular RNA targeting-effector approach to treating diseases. The company noted that its approach is distinct from DNA-targeted approaches and nucleic acid-based RNA targeting. According to a diagram on its website, the company will use a gene therapy vector to deliver an RNA-targeting protein tipped with an RNA-modifying enzyme. Through targeting RNA, the company said its approach avoids the risk of off-target effects in DNA and is suited to address many diseases linked to dysfunctional processing of RNA.

Spotlight

Biotechnology has a long history of use in food production and processing. For ten thousand years fermentation, a form of biotechnology, has been used to produce wine, beer and bread. Selective breeding of animals such as horses and dogs has been going on for centuries. Selective breeding of essential foods such as rice, corn and wheat have created thousands of local varieties with improved yield compared to their wild ancestors.

Spotlight

Biotechnology has a long history of use in food production and processing. For ten thousand years fermentation, a form of biotechnology, has been used to produce wine, beer and bread. Selective breeding of animals such as horses and dogs has been going on for centuries. Selective breeding of essential foods such as rice, corn and wheat have created thousands of local varieties with improved yield compared to their wild ancestors.

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RESEARCH

Abveris Announces Multi-Target, Multi-Year Therapeutic Antibody Discovery Collaboration with Prometheus Biosciences

Abveris, Biosciences | November 12, 2021

Abveris, a leader in antibody drug discovery announced that Prometheus Biosciences and Abveris have entered a multi-year collaboration to develop therapeutic antibodies against multiple targets. The partnership will expand Abveris's role in supporting the rapid development of the Prometheus Biosciences portfolio. The results of the collaboration will bring promising new therapeutics to patients suffering from a variety of immune-mediated diseases. Under this partnership agreement, Abveris will utilize its proprietary DiversimAbTM hyperimmune mouse technology in combination with humanized mice to develop antibodies against several novel therapeutic targets. Capitalizing on the use of its industry-leading rapid B cell screening platform powered by the Berkeley Lights Beacon®, Abveris will identify promising antibody drug candidates via function-forward, high-resolution screening under expedited timelines. "We are proud to expand our existing partnership with the team at Prometheus Biosciences to help bring novel biologics to the autoimmune spaceThe Abveris antibody discovery platform, combined with the drug development capabilities of the Prometheus team, will provide promising therapeutics to patients around the world." Tracey Mullen, Chief Executive Officer at Abveris "Our team has been impressed by Abveris' exceptional level of scientific expertise and ability to discover and deliver antibodies with potential to translate into therapeutic candidates" said Olivier Laurent, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer of Prometheus. "We look forward to continuing our partnership with Abveris to aid in our portfolio expansion with the common goal of bringing transformational therapies to patients." About Prometheus Biosciences Prometheus Biosciences, Inc. is a clinical-stage biotechnology company pioneering a precision medicine approach for the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapeutic and companion diagnostic products for the treatment of immune-mediated diseases, starting first with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The Company's precision medicine platform, Prometheus360, combines proprietary machine learning-based analytical approaches with one of the world's largest gastrointestinal bioinformatics databases to identify novel therapeutic targets and develop therapeutic candidates to engage those targets. The Company's lead candidate, PRA023, is an IgG1 humanized monoclonal antibody (mAb) for the treatment of the two most common forms of IBD, Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn's Disease (CD). The Company has initiated enrollment in a Phase 2 trial in UC patients and a Phase 2a trial in CD patients, each utilizing a genetic-based companion diagnostic designed to identify patients more likely to respond to PRA023. About Abveris Abveris is Boston's premier antibody discovery company providing contract research services to the biopharma industry. Abveris applies advanced immunization methods combined with B cell screening and hybridoma-based antibody discovery technologies to provide comprehensive gene-to-antibody discovery services. Abveris is developing the next generation of biologics, cell therapies, vaccines, and diagnostics in partnership with global biopharma leaders.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Merck Enters into Out-licensing Agreement with Biotechnology Company Vera Therapeutics

Merck | November 11, 2020

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that it, through its subsidiary Ares Trading S.A., has entered into an out-licensing agreement with biotechnology company Vera Therapeutics, South San Francisco, USA, for the further development of investigational therapy atacicept. Vera Therapeutics will first prioritize to take atacicept into a Phase IIb study in IgA nephropathy (IgAN), an autoimmune kidney disease also known as "Berger's disease". "The positive results from our Phase IIa study in IgA nephropathy reinforce the potential of this compound, and we are pleased to see Vera Therapeutics take it into the next phase of development," says Andreas Stickler, Chief Financial Officer and Head of Strategy, Business Development and Portfolio Management of the healthcare business sector of Merck. "This agreement shows how we are executing on our strategy to focus on our priority assets and areas of expertise, while underscoring our commitment to ensure promising molecules from our immunology pipeline have the opportunity to make it to patients as quickly as possible." Atacicept is a recombinant fusion protein that contains the soluble TACI receptor that binds to the cytokines BLyS and APRIL. These cytokines are members of the tumor necrosis factor family that promote B-cell survival and autoantibody production associated with certain autoimmune diseases such as IgAN. IgAN is one of the most common kidney diseases worldwide, with a remaining high unmet medical need for efficacious new medications to treat the disease.

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RESEARCH

Vipergen Collaborates with Anavo Therapeutics to Support Phosphatase-Targeted Discovery Programs

Vipergen ApS, Anavo Therapeutics | May 18, 2021

Vipergen, a leading supplier of small-molecule drug discovery services focused on DNA-encoded library (DEL) technologies, has signed a drug discovery service agreement with Anavo Therapeutics. Vipergen will use its patented high-fidelity DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology platforms to provide novel small-molecule drug leads against selected Anavo discovery targets, according to the terms of the agreement. The agreement's financial terms were not disclosed. "Vipergen's novel solutions to DNA-encoded libraries are useful components for ramping up our patented drug development activities against a chosen portfolio of innovative goals," said Anavo CEO Birgit Zech, Ph.D. "We are excited to collaborate with Vipergen to kick-start Anavo's proprietary drug development activities as we strive to create a comprehensive and secure platform for phosphatase drug discovery against all valuable targets in the space." "We are delighted to have been chosen by Anavo, a new company focusing on understanding the full therapeutic potential of human phosphatase biology in the development of new cancer therapies," said Nils Hansen, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Vipergen. "Phosphatases are a rich target space that has been thought to be impenetrable for decades. We are excited to use our DNA-encoded library technology to quickly produce high-quality hits and leads as part of Anavo's comprehensive approach to finding and improving small-molecule phosphatase activity modulators." About Vipergen ApS Vipergen is the world's largest supplier of small-molecule drug discovery services focused on DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology, as well as the first and only organization capable of screening DELs within a living cell. Vipergen's patented portfolio of cutting-edge DEL technologies is made accessible by funded discovery collaborations with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, including top pharmaceutical companies in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

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