How the Cannabinoid Industry is Evolving with Growing Biotech Influence

PR Newswire | June 09, 2020

The impending marriage of the biotech industry and the legal (i.e. medical) cannabis industry is looking like it will be a long and happy marriage. As the use of legal marijuana grows globally, the medicinal (as opposed to recreational) revenues will continue to grow and become the dominant share of the legal marijuana market. According to Grand View Research the global legal marijuana market size is expected to reach USD 73.6 billion by 2027. It is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 18.1% during the forecast period. Increasing legalization of cannabis for medical (as well as adult-use) is expected to promote growth. On the basis of type, the medical segment held the leading revenue share of 71.0% in 2019, owing to the growing adoption of cannabis as a pharmaceutical product for treating severe medical conditions, such as cancer, arthritis, and Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease among other neurological conditions. Moreover, increasing need for pain management therapies along with growing disease burden of chronic pain among elders is expected to boost the product demand. Active companies in the markets this week include: Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC) (TSX: WEED), CanaFarma Hemp Products Corp. (CSE:CNFA), HEXO Corp. (NYSE: HEXO) (TSX: HEXO), Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) (TSX: ACB), Aphria Inc. (NASDAQ: APHA) (TSX: APHA). Recent reports also show that biotech companies are focusing on medicinal uses based on cannabinoids and that joining could result in even more increases in revenues. An industry insider article said: "Many companies in the biotech industry are researching cannabis extracts. It is a green field for them because some medicines containing cannabinoids have been legalized for the treatment of specific diseases, and conditions like pain, anxiety, and insomnia. They feel the use of cannabis extract for medicinal purposes has not been exhausted." It continued: "Some of the reasons why the biotech industry is excited about cannabidiol include: It is a New sector – being an entirely new field gives an equal chance to each company to come up with great products; Invention – in the tech world, invention is a key motivation.

Spotlight

Recent work indicates that antigens originating from the microbiome may look, from the perspective of immune cells, like proteins found in the human body, and may therefore trigger an autoimmune response. In several studies, researchers have found that the B and T cells that attack the body bind human proteins as well as mimics of those proteins made by commensal bacteria.

Spotlight

Recent work indicates that antigens originating from the microbiome may look, from the perspective of immune cells, like proteins found in the human body, and may therefore trigger an autoimmune response. In several studies, researchers have found that the B and T cells that attack the body bind human proteins as well as mimics of those proteins made by commensal bacteria.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Gritstone bio and CEPI Expand Vaccine Agreement to Tackle Omicron Variant

Gritstone bio | December 07, 2021

Gritstone bio, Inc. a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing next generation cancer and infectious disease immunotherapies, and CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, announced the expansion of their agreement in order to support the development of a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine designed to tackle the Omicron COVID-19 variant. CEPI will provide up to $5 million in additional funding to conduct a Phase 1 clinical trial of Gritstone’s Omicron vaccine candidate in South Africa, where a CEPI-funded clinical trial of Gritstone’s Beta variant COVID-19 vaccine is due to begin shortly. The SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes administered within Gritstone’s SAM COVID-19 vaccines are minimally impacted by mutations found within the Omicron variant, reinforcing the platform’s potential to address both Omicron and future variants of concern. CEPI is already funding up to $20.6 million to support preclinical studies, manufacturing process optimization, and a Phase 1 trial of Gritstone’s Beta variant vaccine candidate which will be initiated by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand in the coming weeks. The funding announced today will expand the Phase 1 trial to include additional arms to evaluate an Omicron-specific version of the vaccine. Gritstone has commenced manufacturing its SAM vaccine to specifically target the Omicron variant, and the Omicron arms of the Phase 1 trial are expected to begin in Q2 2022, subject to regulatory approval. The recently described Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa on November 9, 2021, was designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 26, 2021. Early evidence suggests that Omicron carries an increased risk of re-infection, and sequence analysis has revealed many mutations in Spike, which may reduce clinical effectiveness of existing vaccines and/or therapeutic antibodies. Enabling equitable access CEPI is committed to global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines so, through this agreement, CEPI and Gritstone have agreed that this Omicron vaccine candidate will be made available to the COVAX Facility for procurement and allocation, if it is proven to be safe and effective. The COVAX Facility aims to deliver equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, at all levels of development, that wish to participate. “While key questions are yet to be answered about Omicron, its transmissibility, and its potential ability to evade our current vaccines, the stakes are too high to delay developing Omicron-specific vaccine candidates. Given the uncertainties, we must accelerate crucial R&D so vaccines are available to tackle Omicron as soon as possible – just in case we need them. There is no time to lose, so I’m pleased that within 10 days of Omicron being declared a Variant of Concern by the WHO, CEPI is expanding its partnership with Gritstone to support a new Omicron vaccine candidate which can be made globally accessible through COVAX.” Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI “Our vaccine platforms are built on the premise that a best-in-class vaccine against a virus will drive strong neutralizing antibodies directed to surface antigens such as Spike, and strong cytotoxic T cell responses against other conserved viral antigens to eliminate virally infected cells. This broad immune response would, in principle, provide superior protection against a virus that is mutating its surface protein. Omicron is an example of a novel SARS-CoV-2 variant that may escape clinical protection conferred by vaccines that only afford narrow, Spike-specific immunity,” said Andrew Allen, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Gritstone. “Our SAM technology provides an innovative platform likely capable of delivering on the attractive concept of broad, durable immunity. We are thrilled to be quickly expanding our relationship with CEPI in our shared goal of finding new vaccine solutions to battle this deadly virus on a global scale and help prevent current and perhaps future COVID outbreaks.” Self-amplifying mRNA vaccines As with the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines that are now in global use, self-amplifying mRNA vaccines use the body’s own machinery to make antigenic protein itself rather than injecting the antigen directly into the body. However, in self-amplifying mRNA vaccines, viral RNA is adapted in a way that allows only the genetic sequence for a specific antigen to be expressed, while keeping the part of the RNA that allows it to produce multiple copies of itself—the self-amplification machinery. The benefit of this approach is that the dose of RNA can be reduced while maintaining the potency of the vaccine. Gritstone’s vaccine candidate may also elicit T-cell immune responses against non-Spike gene fragments, which are slower to mutate than the genes associated with the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and could potentially provide broad protection against other SARS-CoV-2 strains. About CEPI CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. Prior to COVID-19 CEPI’s work focused on developing vaccines against Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus and Chikungunya virus – it has over 20 vaccine candidates against these pathogens in development. CEPI has also invested in new platform technologies for rapid vaccine development against unknown pathogens. During the current pandemic, CEPI initiated multiple programmes to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants with a focus on speed, scale and access. These programmes leverage the rapid response platforms developed by CEPI’s partners prior to the emergence of COVID-19 as well as new collaborations. The aim is to advance clinical development of a diverse portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 candidates and to enable fair allocation to these vaccines worldwide through COVAX. CEPI’s 5-year plan lays out a $3.5 billion roadmap to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days, develop a universal vaccine against COVID-19 and other Betacoronaviruses, and create a “library” of vaccine candidates for use against known and unknown pathogens. About the CORAL Program Gritstone’s CORAL program is a second-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine platform delivering spike and additional SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes, offering the potential for more durable protection and broader immunity against SARS-CoV-2 variants. Delivery vectors can comprise a chimpanzee adenovirus, self-amplifying mRNA or both (mix and match). The program is supported by several key relationships: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). An ongoing Gritstone-sponsored Phase 1 trial is evaluating SAM as a boost and immunogenicity enhancer of AstraZeneca's first-generation COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222 (Vaxzevria) in healthy adults ≥ 60 years in the UK. A two-dose SAM regimen is also being evaluated in an ongoing clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH) Division of Microbiology and Infectious Disease and in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations-funded, Gritstone-sponsored clinical trial in South Africa expected to begin by year end 2021. About Gritstone Gritstone bio, Inc. a clinical-stage biotechnology company, is developing the next generation of immunotherapies against multiple cancer types and infectious diseases. Gritstone develops its products by leveraging two key pillars—first, a proprietary machine learning-based platform, Gritstone EDGETM, which is designed to predict antigens that are presented on the surface of cells, such as tumor or virally-infected cells, that can be seen by the immune system; and, second, the ability to develop and manufacture potent immunotherapies utilizing these antigens to potentially drive the patient’s immune system to specifically attack and destroy disease-causing cells. The company’s lead oncology programs include an individualized neoantigen-based immunotherapy, GRANITE, and an “off-the-shelf” shared neoantigen-based immunotherapy, SLATE, which are being evaluated in clinical studies. Within its infectious disease pipeline, Gritstone is advancing CORAL, a COVID-19 program to develop a second-generation vaccine, with support from departments within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and through a license agreement with La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI). Additionally, the company has a global collaboration for the development of a therapeutic HIV vaccine with Gilead Sciences. About COVAX COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, is co-convened by CEPI, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

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MEDICAL

Spotlight Therapeutics Raises $36.5 Million Series B to Advance a Pipeline of Cell-Targeted In Vivo CRISPR Gene Editing Biologics

Spotlight Therapeutics | March 22, 2022

Spotlight Therapeutics, Inc. (“Spotlight”), a biotechnology company applying new insights to develop cell-targeted in vivo CRISPR gene editing biologics, today announced a $36.5M Series B financing to fuel a drive toward the clinic. The financing round was co-led by new investors GordonMD Global Investments and EPIQ Capital Group, with participation from Magnetic Ventures, as well as existing investors GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Emerson Collective and other investors. Craig Gordon, M.D., Founder, CEO and CIO of GordonMD Global Investments, joins the Company’s Board of Directors. Spotlight's proprietary technology platform, TAGE (Targeted Active Gene Editors), is a new class of biologics; highly engineered, modular programmable CRISPR effectors designed to target and edit selected cell types in vivo. This approach circumvents the complexity of packaged viral, viral-like, and nanoparticle delivery systems, opens the door to expanded applications, and holds the promise of increasing patient access. We are excited to help Spotlight advance its pioneering work, which shows promise for cell-targeted delivery of CRISPR effectors in vivo. Spotlight’s TAGE platform could enable significant expansion of CRISPR medicines to a wide range of diseases." Dr. Gordon. This Series B funding is a crucial milestone as we advance our lead first-in-class immuno-oncology (IO) program and progress our pipeline of programs in IO, ophthalmic diseases and hemoglobinopathies,It will enable us to execute our development plan, leveraging Spotlight’s unique cell-targeted in vivo delivery approach, as we aspire to unlock the full potential of gene editing and enable effective one-and-done medicines for patients.” Mary Haak-Frendscho, Ph.D., President and CEO of Spotlight Therapeutics. About Spotlight Therapeutics Established in mid-2018, Spotlight Therapeutics is a privately held biotechnology company advancing a pipeline of cell-targeted in vivo CRISPR gene editing therapies. Spotlight's proprietary technology platform TAGE (Targeted Active Gene Editors) is a new class of biologics, CRISPR effectors engineered for direct delivery in vivo, to achieve cell-selective therapeutic genome editing. Spotlight's pipeline is advancing its modular programmable CRISPR effectors towards clinical studies in immuno-oncology, ophthalmic diseases and hemoglobinopathies. The company is headquartered in Hayward, California.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Innovent Announces First Patient Dosing of Universal Modular CAR-T Cell product IBI345

Innovent Biologics | February 21, 2022

Innovent Biologics, Inc. a world-class biopharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures and commercializes high-quality medicines for the treatment of oncology, metabolic, autoimmune and other major diseases, today announced the first patient dosing for its first-in-class IgG-based universal "modular" Claudin 18.2-targeting chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell product (development code: IBI345) for the treatment of advanced Claudin18.2-positive solid tumors in an investigator-initiated-trial (IIT). Since Innovent announced its strategic cooperation with Roche on June 9, 2020, this is the first disclosure of the development milestone for the cell therapy products based on Roche's proprietary innovative technology platform. CAR-T cell therapy has established a meaningful role in the treatment of hematological tumors with 5 products approved by the FDA, and 2 by the NMPA in China, respectively; however, antitumor efficacy for solid tumors remains a challenge calling for technological breakthroughs. As the world's first universal "modular" CAR-T cell product, IBI345 has potentially differentiated advantages over conventional CAR-T cell therapy products, including: 1) leveraging antibody function to target tumor antigens and consequently amplifying the tumor antigen signal to guide CAR-T cells to enter the tumor, thus aiding in the initiation of tumor recognition and killing; 2) controlling the functional activity of the CAR-T cells via concomitantly administered antibodies which act as a bridge between the target cell and CAR-T cell, potentially providing a better safety profile; 3) allows for the sequential or simultaneous administration of more than one antibody targeting different antigen targets without changing CAR-T cells, to treat tumors with highly heterogeneous antigen expression or relapsed tumors due to antigen-loss, thereby improving the accessibility and increasing the flexibility of CAR-T cell therapy for patients. The principal investigator of the study, Professor Weichang Chen, the Secretary of the Party Committee and Chief Physician of the Department of Gastroenterology of the First Hospital Affiliated to Soochow University, pointed out: "As gastric and pancreatic cancer are highly aggressive tumors with high incidence rates in the world, patients are in urgent need of novel treatment options to improve clinical outcomes. IBI345, with its unique design to control CAR-T functional activity through the antibody bridging, will likely provide improved safety and efficacy. We look forward to the positive results of the safety, tolerability and efficacy data of IBI345 in patients with solid tumors, which will potentially provide a new option for the treatment of patients with advanced gastric or pancreatic cancer." "IBI345 is a highly differentiated CAR-T cell product with a new mechanism of action developed by Innovent based on Roche's proprietary technology. As a universal "modular" CAR-T cell therapy product, equipped with a precisely targeted antibody switch, it regulates the expansion of CAR-T cells to control side effects, potentially providing an opportunity to switch to another antibody that targets different antigens to prevent recurrence and treat different tumors. Our preclinical studies have validated this "modular" CAR-T technology, which provides us with the sufficient scientific data to initiate clinical studies. In the following clinical studies, we will explore the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and preliminary efficacy of IBI345, and optimize the clinical dosage and regimen to support the subsequent IND application. We firmly believe that Innovent will be able to introduce more innovative cell therapies through platform technology innovation, product transformation and in-depth collaboration with the clinical academic community that will ultimately benefit more patients and families." Dr. Xu Wei, VP of Innovent, R&D Head of Cell Therapy About Claudin 18.2 Claudin protein is a critical component of tight junction complex molecules which play an important role in the life activities of the human body. On the one hand, tight junctions can function as a "barrier" to select the size and charge of substances, thereby regulating the transport of substances in the para-cellular pathway. For example, brain vascular endothelial cells can pass through this barrier, preventing blood from mixing with the extracellular fluid in the brain. On the other hand, tight junctions can also function as "fences", maintaining cell polarity by regulating the free diffusion of lipids and proteins between the apical and the basolateral membrane. About Gastric and Pancreatic adenocarcinoma Gastric and pancreatic cancer are both malignant tumors of the digestive system that seriously endanger human life and health. The latest global cancer statistics show that there will be about 1.089 million new cases of gastric cancer worldwide in 2020, accounting for 5.6% of the global cancer incidence, and about 768,000 deaths, accounting for 7.7% of the global cancer deaths. There are about 495,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer, accounting for 2.6% of the global cancer incidence, and about 466,000 deaths, accounting for 4.7% of the global cancer deaths. According to the national cancer statistics released by the National Cancer Center of China in 2019, the incidence of gastric cancer in China in 2015 was about 403,000, accounting for 10.26% of the total cancer incidence, second only to lung cancer at 20.03%, with an incidence rate of 29.31/100,000 people, and about 291,000 deaths, accounting for 12.45% of the total cancer deaths, behind lung and liver cancer, with a mortality rate of 21.16/100,000 people. In 2015, the number of cases and deaths of pancreatic cancer nationwide were 95,000 and 85,000 respectively, ranking the 10th and 6th in the incidence and mortality of malignant tumors. The mortality ratio of pancreatic cancer was 0.89, making it a true "King of Cancer". Despite the treatment progress in recent years, drug resistance, recurrence and metastasis are still inevitable. The 5-year survival rate of patients with advanced gastric cancer is about 5-20%, and the median survival rate is about 10 months. Pancreatic cancer has a worse prognosis, with a 5-year survival rate of only 6 to 8%. About IBI345 IBI345 is the first universal "modular" CAR-T cell product developed by Innovent based on Roche's proprietary technology. It is an internationally pioneered highly differentiated CAR-T cell product with a new mechanism of action. Different from conventional CAR-T cells that directly recognize and kill tumor cells, IBI345 comprises of two components, anti-Claudin18.2 antibodies and "modular" CAR-T cells where anti-Claudin18.2 antibody recognizes tumor antigen, thus calibrating and amplifying the antigen signal, and guides "modular" CAR-T cells to enter the tumor to initiate the cytotoxic and antitumor activity of CAR-T cells. Compared with conventional CAR-T cells, IBI345 has a variety of potential advantages, including dual effects of antibodies and CAR-T cells to increase antitumor efficacy, and flexible control of side effects by regulating CAR-T cell activity through antibodies; in addition, as having a universal CAR molecule, "modular" CAR-T cells can be easily switched to different antibodies without changing CAR-T cells, by sequentially or simultaneously administering more than one antibody targeting different antigen targets, to treat tumors with highly heterogeneous antigen expression or antigen-loss relapsed tumors, which holds a great potential to reduce the cost of CAR-T cell therapy and improve the accessibility of CAR-T cell therapy for patients. Innovent announced that first patient dosing has been completed in February 2022 in the investigator-initiated clinical trial of IBI345 for the treatment of advanced Claudin18.2-positive solid tumors, and enrollment is currently ongoing. The safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and preliminary efficacy of IBI345 will be explored, and the clinical dosage and regimen will be explored to provide clinical data support for the subsequent IND application. About Innovent Inspired by the spirit of "Start with Integrity, Succeed through Action," Innovent's mission is to develop, manufacture and commercialize high-quality biopharmaceutical products that are affordable to ordinary people. Established in 2011, Innovent is committed to developing, manufacturing and commercializing high-quality innovative medicines for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune, metabolic and other major diseases. On October 31, 2018, Innovent was listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited with the stock code: 01801.HK.

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