Is Immunotherapy Working? Just Ask AI

Technology Networks | November 25, 2019

Scientists from the Case Western Reserve University digital imaging lab, already pioneering the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict whether chemotherapy will be successful, can now determine which lung-cancer patients will benefit from expensive immunotherapy. And, once again, they’re doing it by teaching a computer to find previously unseen changes in patterns in CT scans taken when the lung cancer is first diagnosed compared to scans taken after the first 2-3 cycles of immunotherapy treatment. And, as with previous work, those changes have been discovered both inside—and outside—the tumor, a signature of the lab’s recent research. “This is no flash in the pan—this research really seems to be reflecting something about the very biology of the disease, about which is the more aggressive phenotype, and that’s information oncologists do not currently have,” said Anant Madabhushi, whose Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics (CCIPD) researches the detection, diagnosis and characterization of various cancers and other diseases by meshing medical imaging, machine learning and AI. Currently, only about 20% of all cancer patients will actually benefit from immunotherapy, a treatment that differs from chemotherapy in that it uses drugs to help your immune system fight cancer, while chemotherapy uses drugs to directly kill cancer cells, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Spotlight

When you’re working to achieve in vivo conditions for your cell cultures, the surface is exactly where you want to be. The surface used to cultivate cancer cells, for example, has a direct effect on the formation and proliferation of spheroids. And when you’re working in cancer research, it can make all the difference in generating meaningful results and identifying effective treatments.

Spotlight

When you’re working to achieve in vivo conditions for your cell cultures, the surface is exactly where you want to be. The surface used to cultivate cancer cells, for example, has a direct effect on the formation and proliferation of spheroids. And when you’re working in cancer research, it can make all the difference in generating meaningful results and identifying effective treatments.

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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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RESEARCH, INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

BigHat Biosciences Announces Research Collaboration with Merck

BigHat Biosciences, Inc. | November 30, 2022

BigHat Biosciences, Inc., a biotechnology company with a machine learning-guided antibody discovery and development platform, announced a collaboration with Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, to apply the company’s technology to design candidates for up to three drug discovery programs. BigHat’s design platform, Milliner, integrates a high-speed characterization with ML technologies to engineer antibodies with more complex functions and better biophysical properties. This approach could help reduce the difficulty of optimizing antibodies and other therapeutic proteins. Under the collaboration, BigHat and Merck will collaborate to optimize up to three proteins by leveraging BigHat’s platform to synthesize, express, purify, and characterize molecules. Mark DePristo, co-founder and CEO of BigHat, continued, "We are thrilled to be collaborating with Merck's world-class drug development teams to design safer, more effective antibodies for these important therapeutic programs.” The teams have initiated work on the first program and are looking forward to using the power of the complementary skills sets within each research team to generate high-quality lead antibodies. “We are excited to begin this collaboration to advance next-generation antibody therapeutics to patients,” said Elizabeth Schwarzbach, BigHat’s Chief Business Officer. "This agreement with Merck brings us a major step closer to our goal of 3-5 deep collaborations with leading biopharmas to complement our internal therapeutic pipeline." “This agreement with BigHat expands Merck’s strategy of applying AI/ML across our drug discovery capabilities. We look forward to working with the team to leverage BigHat’s technology and expertise in enabling molecular design of novel biologic candidates.” Juan Alvarez, vice president of Biologics Discovery, Merck Research Laboratories About BigHat Biosciences, Inc. BigHat Biosciences is designing safer, more effective antibody therapies for patients using machine learning and synthetic biology. BigHat integrates a wet lab for high-speed characterization with machine learning technologies to guide the search for better antibodies. They apply these design capabilities to develop new generations of safer and more effective treatments for patients suffering from today’s most challenging diseases. BigHat is a Series B biotech outside San Francisco with a team-oriented, inclusive, and family-friendly culture. BigHat’s broad pipeline of wholly-owned and partnered therapeutic programs span many disparate indications with high unmet need, such as cancer, inflammation, and infectious disease. BigHat has raised over $100M from top investors, including Section 32, a16z, and 8VC.

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT

XtalPi and CK Life Sciences to collaborate in AI-empowered tumour vaccine research and development, opening a new paradigm for scientific innovation

XtalPi Inc. | November 25, 2022

XtalPi announced today that they are embarking on a strategic collaboration with CK Life Sciences, a member of the CK Hutchison Group. XtalPi and CK Life Sciences will leverage their respective expertise to jointly develop a novel AI tumour vaccine R&D platform to improve the discovery and design capabilities of tumour vaccines and accelerate the development of more vaccine types. The goal of this collaboration is to realize precision treatment for patients worldwide. According to public information, there were nearly 20 million newly diagnosed cancer patients worldwide in 2021, of which about 4.5 million cases came from China. Many cancer types lead to detrimental outcomes, with high morbidity and mortality, and there remains a large unmet clinical need. Tumour vaccines targeting different tumour neoantigens, tumour-associated antigens and tumour-specific antigens in patients can be designed for use as immunotherapy, to activate the patient's own specific immune responses. Currently, there are only two therapeutic tumour vaccines— sipuleucel-T for melanoma and Bacillus Calmette-Guérin for bladder cancer, as well as preventive tumour vaccines against human papillomavirus infection and hepatitis B infection approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Recently, several other tumour vaccines have entered clinical development and evidence of efficacy has begun to emerge. According to Mordor Intelligence, the global cancer vaccine market size was US$6.79 billion in 2021 and will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 11.53% from 2022 to 2026. The expected market size by 2026 will be approximately US$12 billion. Currently, the design and preclinical development process for tumour vaccines is complex and lengthy, hindering the efficiency and success rate of tumour vaccine research and development. Incorporating XtalPi's industry expertise in AI computation and robotic automation, this collaboration aims to build an AI tumour vaccine R&D platform that applies advanced AI algorithms and high-precision molecular modeling to predict and design a variety of tumour vaccines that can activate specific immune responses to kill tumours. The tumour vaccines will be screened and verified through automated experiments, and through integrating algorithmic feedback to optimise activity and efficacy, the platform is expected to generate preclinical tumour vaccine candidate compounds with robust immune activity. "As a company headquartered in the Hetao Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation Zone, XtalPi is committed to realising the synergies between Shenzhen and Hong Kong by creating a new paradigm for innovation in the Greater Bay Area. Empowered by the latest technological advancements in automation, artificial intelligence is accelerating more innovative and diverse areas in drug research and development. Together with CK Life Sciences, we are committed to overcome conventional limitations and discover diverse applications for cutting-edge technologies. We believe the AI cancer vaccine platform jointly developed by CK Life Sciences and XtalPi will inspire the global scientific community to progress vaccine research and development and fast-track key development milestones for cancer vaccines. We are confident that this collaboration will significantly facilitate the scientific research exchange in the Greater Bay Area." Dr. Shuhao Wen, co-founder and chairman of XtalPi Dr. Melvin Toh, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of CK Life Sciences, comments: "The R&D of tumour vaccines is one of the key development directions of CK Life Sciences. The cooperation with XtalPi will apply XtalPi's AI algorithm, molecular modeling and automated experiments to speed up the R&D process, improve the success rate, and increase the efficacy of tumour vaccines." About XtalPi Founded in 2014, XtalPi founders recognized a common hurdle in drug development having to do with solid polymorphism, which could be successfully tackled with quantum physics predictions. Since then, XtalPi has maintained its focus on identifying and then attacking traditional bottlenecks in biopharmaceutical R&D through innovative technologies. Through considerable capital investments in automation and personnel, XtalPi now has four locations worldwide and employs approximately 1000 employees. XtalPi has engaged in collaboration research with nearly all top-20 pharmaceutical companies in the world. Its ID4 platform combines physics-based simulations with experimental validation and refinement, automation for rapid synthesis, and machine learning to continuously improve prediction accuracy and process efficiency. About CK Life Sciences CK Life Sciences is listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. Bearing the mission of improving the quality of life, CK Life Sciences is engaged in the business of research and development, manufacturing, commercialisation, marketing, sale of, and investment in, products and assets which fall into three core categories - nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture-related. CK Life Sciences is a member of the CK Hutchison Group.

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