Gene therapy offers hope for untreatable CTE brain disorder

Genetic Literacy Project | January 14, 2020

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College published a new study (“Anti-Phospho-Tau Gene Therapy for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy”) in Human Gene Therapy that shows the feasibility of using gene therapy to treat the progressive neurodegenerative disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The study demonstrated the effectiveness of direct delivery of gene therapy into the brain of a mouse model of CTE.

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Night lab made by National Center for Biotechnology, Astana Kazakhstan

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Night lab made by National Center for Biotechnology, Astana Kazakhstan

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Phytolon and Ginkgo Bioworks Collaborate to Take Biological Production of Vibrant Food Colors to the Next Level

Phytolon; Ginkgo Bioworks | February 28, 2022

Phytolon, a growing startup company making natural food colorants, announced a partnership today with Ginkgo Bioworks the leading horizontal platform for cell programming, to produce vibrant cultured food colors via fermentation of yeast. Under this partnership, Phytolon is leveraging Ginkgo's ability to engineer biology at scale to work together on the production of vibrant betalain pigments, the healthy and colorful compounds found in foods like beets and cactus fruit. The project aims to take Phytolon's colors across the full 'yellow-to-purple' spectrum to the next level, and to potentially maximize the business opportunity of Phytolon's vibrant colors for applications in the food and cosmetics industries. Scientists have developed hundreds of artificial food dyes by using the tools of synthetic chemistry to convert petrochemical sources into a wide range of colors. Biotechnology offers an opportunity to tap into the vibrant colors of biology to produce more sustainable, yet equally vibrant, colors. While artificial dyes are visually appealing and cheap to manufacture, many have been banned in food and feed due to health concerns. As consumers increasingly seek out more sustainable and nature-derived products, the food industry is working to find food colors that have equivalent pigment vibrancy to those found in synthetic chemical dyes but which come from biological rather than petrochemical sources. Phytolon has developed a proprietary process for producing betalain pigments through precision fermentation of certain yeast strains. Together, Phytolon and Ginkgo are partnering with the goal of maximizing the production efficiency of purple and yellow betalain-producing strains. "We're excited to work with Ginkgo to develop natural food colors that can potentially outperform conventional artificial dyes in cost and performance. We believe biotechnology makes it possible to produce a wider range of colors than ever before that may outperform current benchmark colorants, and we look forward to building products that may meet and even exceed consumer expectations for healthier, sustainable foods, all while aiming to maintain industry requirements for high quality and cost-efficiency." Dr. Tal Zeltzer, Co-founder and CTO of Phytolon "We love enabling growing startups like Phytolon through our platform, using biotechnology to challenge industry norms and attempt to build a fundamentally better product than what's on the market today," said Jennifer Wipf, Head of Commercial, Cell Engineering at Ginkgo Bioworks. "The planet needs new sustainable solutions, and we are excited to partner with Phytolon to support a more sustainable food system." About Phytolon Phytolon is a biotechnology startup company that is taking food coloring to the next level by leveraging a novel technology for production of natural pigments via precision fermentation of yeast. Phytolon's products have been successfully validated by global leaders in the food industry, and Phyloton expects to enter into commercialization agreements with initial strategic partners in the near term. Phytolon is supported by partners such as The Trendlines Group Millennium Foodtech, EIT-Food, Consensus Business Group, Arkin Holdings and others. About Ginkgo Bioworks Ginkgo is building a platform to enable customers to program cells as easily as we can program computers. The company's platform is enabling biotechnology applications across diverse markets, from food and agriculture to industrial chemicals to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo has also actively supported a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including K-12 pooled testing, vaccine manufacturing optimization and therapeutics discovery.

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MEDICAL

Slate Bio Announces the Launch with Seed Financing to Develop Next Generation IL-2 Therapies

Slate Bio | January 20, 2021

Slate Bio, Inc., reports the closing of a $1.75 million venture financing. Epidarex Capital drove the speculation round with cooperation from the UVA Licensing and Ventures Group Seed Fund, Center for Innovative Technology's GAP BioLife Fund, VTC Seed Fund, PharmaDirections, Inc., the board and others. Record is a pre-clinical biotechnology organization creating outlook changing IL-2 mixes dependent on examination directed at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. IL233, Slate's lead candidate, is a first in class drug that initiates constant abatement in animal models of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Slate's IL233 is a bifunctional IL-2 combination cytokine that increases Regulatory T cells (Tregs) and tissue resident Tregs for autoimmune and provocative infections. IL233 joins the de-gambling certainty of IL-2 and the collaboration and toughness of IL-33. IL233 goes about as a pharmacological kick off to revive the body's inherent pathways to stop inflammation, end mal-adaptive repair and promote regeneration of damaged tissues to restore homeostasis.

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MEDTECH

Pfizer to Acquire Trillium Therapeutics Inc.

Pfizer Inc | August 24, 2021

Pfizer Inc. and Trillium Therapeutics Inc. today announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Pfizer will acquire Trillium, a clinical stage immuno-oncology company developing innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer. Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will acquire all outstanding shares of Trillium not already owned by Pfizer for an implied equity value of $2.26 billion, or $18.50 per share, in cash. This represents a 118% premium to the 60-day weighted average price for Trillium. Trillium’s portfolio includes biologics that are designed to enhance the ability of patients’ innate immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells. Its two lead molecules, TTI-622 and TTI-621, block the signal-regulatory protein α (SIRPα)–CD47 axis, which is emerging as a key immune checkpoint in hematological malignancies. TTI-622 and TTI-621 are novel, potentially best-in-class SIRPα-Fc fusion proteins that are currently in Phase 1b/2 development across several indications, with a focus on hematological malignancies. “Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to pursue scientific breakthroughs with the addition of potentially best-in-class molecules to our innovative pipeline,” said Andy Schmeltz, Global President & General Manager, Pfizer Oncology. “The proposed acquisition of Trillium builds on our strong track record of leadership in Oncology, enhancing our hematology portfolio as we strive to improve outcomes for people living with blood cancers around the globe. Our deep experience in understanding the science of blood cancers, along with the diverse knowledge base we have developed across our growing hematology portfolio of eight approved and investigational therapies, provide us with a foundation to advance these important potential medicines to patients who need them.” Hematological malignancies are cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. This classification includes various types of leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma. More than 1 million people worldwide were diagnosed with a blood cancer in 2020, representing almost 6% of all cancer diagnoses globally. In 2020, more than 700,000 people worldwide died from a form of blood cancer. “We’re delighted to announce Pfizer’s proposed acquisition of Trillium. Today’s announcement reflects Trillium’s potentially best in class SIRPα–CD47 status and contribution to immuno-oncology,” said Dr. Jan Skvarka, Chief Executive Officer of Trillium. “Trillium has the only known SIRPα–CD47 targeting molecules with clinically meaningful monotherapy responses as well as a strong basis for combination therapies, which is supported by preclinical evidence with a diverse set of therapeutic agents. With Pfizer’s global reach and deep capabilities, we believe our programs will advance more quickly to the patients we’ve always aspired to serve. We believe this is a good outcome for patients and our shareholders.” In clinical studies to-date, TTI-622 and TTI-621 have demonstrated activity as monotherapy in relapsed or refractory lymphoid malignancies, including Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), Peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), Follicular Lymphoma (FL), and other lymphoid malignancies. As of July 26, 2021, Phase 1 data for TTI-622 in 30 response-evaluable patients have shown deep and durable responses in heavily pretreated patients, including two complete responses (CRs), one lasting over 114 weeks, with responses ongoing. TTI-622 and TTI-621 are currently the only known CD47-targeted molecules that have demonstrated meaningful single agent activity and CRs in multiple hematological malignancies. Thus far, adverse events (AEs) reported with TTI-622 and TTI-621 have been manageable. Related Grade 3 and 4 AEs with TTI-622 were rare and limited to transient cytopenias. In particular, the molecules demonstrate minimal red blood cell binding and few reported cases of anemia, an observed risk with other CD47-targeted approaches. Further data are expected to be shared at a forthcoming medical conference. “We are encouraged by the early clinical data for TTI-622 and TTI-621 monotherapy for patients with heavily pretreated lymphoid malignancies and early encouraging activity for TTI-622 in patients with multiple myeloma. Just as PD-1 and PD-L1 blockers have proven to be effective immuno-therapeutics for many solid tumors, the SIRPα-CD47 interaction defines a second key immune checkpoint for which disrupting agents are expected to become another important backbone immunotherapy for multiple types of cancer, especially hematological cancers,” said Chris Boshoff, MD, PhD, Chief Development Officer, Oncology, Pfizer Global Product Development. “Utilizing Pfizer’s leading research and global development capabilities, we plan to accelerate the clinical development of SIRPα fusion proteins as a potential new scientific breakthrough and explore combinations within our own portfolio and with innovative next-generation medicines for hematological malignancies.” In September 2020, as part of the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative (PBGI), Pfizer invested $25 million in Trillium and Jeff Settleman, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer’s Oncology Research & Development Group, was named to Trillium’s Scientific Advisory Board. Established in June 2020, PBGI’s goal is to provide funding for scientific research as well as access to Pfizer’s experts to ensure the continuity of clinical programs that could be of potential strategic interest for Pfizer. Pfizer has committed to providing up to $500 million in total funding to the PBGI. Additional Transaction Details The proposed acquisition of Trillium is to be completed by way of a statutory plan of arrangement under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia) and subject to customary closing conditions, including approval of 66⅔% of the votes cast by Trillium shareholders, voting together as one class, at a special meeting of Trillium and approval of 66⅔% of the votes cast by Trillium shareholders and warrant holders, voting together as one class, at a special meeting of Trillium. Completion of the acquisition is also subject to court and regulatory approval, as well as certain other closing conditions customary for transactions of this nature. Pfizer’s financial advisors for the transaction are BofA Securities, Inc., with Ropes & Gray LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP acting as its legal advisors. Centerview Partners LLC served as Trillium’s financial advisor, while Goodwin Procter LLP and Baker McKenzie LLP (Canada) served as its legal advisors. About SIRPα/CD47 Accumulating data suggest that the SIRPα–CD47 axis is a key immune checkpoint in hematologic malignancies, similar to the PD-L1 / PD-1 checkpoint for solid tumors. CD47 is a protein that is overexpressed in numerous cancer cells, and in general, high CD47 expression correlates with more aggressive disease and poorer clinical outcomes. SIRPα is an inhibitory receptor expressed on myeloid cells that binds to CD47, preventing the immune system from destroying cancer cells. Disruption of the CD47-SIRPα interaction has been proven to elicit tumor destruction through triggering of an innate immune response. About Pfizer Oncology At Pfizer Oncology, we are committed to advancing medicines wherever we believe we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people living with cancer. Today, we have an industry-leading portfolio of 24 approved innovative cancer medicines and biosimilars across more than 30 indications, including breast, genitourinary, colorectal, blood and lung cancers, as well as melanoma. About Pfizer: At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products, including innovative medicines and vaccines. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 170 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. About Trillium Therapeutics Trillium is an immuno-oncology company developing innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer. The company’s two clinical programs, TTI-622 and TTI-621, target CD47, a “don’t eat me” signal that cancer cells frequently use to evade the immune system.

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