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.

Spotlight

A nucleosome is a section of DNA that is wrapped around a core of proteins. Inside the nucleus, DNA forms a complex with proteins called chromatin, which allows the DNA to be condensed into a smaller volume. When the chromatin is extended and viewed under a microscope, the structure resembles beads on a string.

Spotlight

A nucleosome is a section of DNA that is wrapped around a core of proteins. Inside the nucleus, DNA forms a complex with proteins called chromatin, which allows the DNA to be condensed into a smaller volume. When the chromatin is extended and viewed under a microscope, the structure resembles beads on a string.

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DIAGNOSTICS

Zoetis to Complete Acquisition of Basepaws to Strengthen its Portfolio

Zoetis | June 27, 2022

Zoetis Inc. is the world's largest animal health company committed to providing medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock. The company announced completing the acquisition of a privately held petcare genetics company, Basepaws, which offers early health risk assessments, genetic tests, and analytics to pet owners. The acquisition was first announced on June 7th. However, the financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed. Basepaws, founded by CEO Anna Skaya in 2017, provides genetic screening tools for the diagnosis of several pet diseases, health reports, and individualized breeds by identifying traits, potential hereditary conditions, and biomarkers. With the help of genetic insights from Basepaws, pet owners and doctors can better understand a pet's risk for the disease. This can result in more meaningful interactions and improve the chances of early identification and treatment of the disease. When we first met Basepaws CEO Anna Skaya and the team, we were immediately drawn to their passion for pets and the role that genetic testing and data analytics can have in advancing animal care – a purpose that drives us every day,The addition of Basepaws will enhance our portfolio in the precision animal health space and inform our future pipeline of petcare innovations. Working together, we can continue to provide veterinarians and pet owners with more comprehensive ways to proactively manage the health, wellness, and quality of care for their animals." Zoetis, CEO Kristin Peck.

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MEDICAL

Be Bio and Resilience Announce Strategic Collaboration to Manufacture Engineered B Cells, a New Class of Cellular Medicines

Be Bio | May 20, 2022

Be Biopharma, Inc. (“Be Bio”) and National Resilience, Inc. (Resilience) today announced a strategic collaboration to advance initial programs in Be Bio’s rare disease pipeline. Be Bio’s proprietary engineered B Cell Medicines (BeCM) platform is harnessing the power of the human B cell to create a new class of autologous and allogeneic cellular medicines that durably and redosably produce therapeutic proteins in vivo without toxic pre-conditioning. The two companies are investing to drive innovation and reliability in cell therapy manufacturing, a critical success factor for broad and meaningful patient impact. As part of this unique partnership, Resilience will dedicate personnel solely to produce and supply Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)-grade viral vector and cell therapy drug product for the initial programs in Be Bio’s rare disease pipeline. Through a creative cost and risk-sharing model, Resilience will be responsible for manufacturing costs and receive potential future milestones and royalties. Over the past year, Be Bio has built a strong foundation with our BeCM platform, pipeline, team, and recent $130 million financing. Manufacturing is critical to rapidly progress our BeCMs to the clinic and we have built non-GMP manufacturing capabilities in our Cambridge facility. This deal allows us to drive GMP manufacturing with an outstanding partner, and in a capital efficient manner, Resilience’s broad manufacturing capabilities, strong collaborative spirit and dedicated resources to our platform, make them an ideal partner for our BeCM programs.” Joanne Smith-Farrell, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer at Be Bio. Resilience will lead clinical GMP manufacturing of both the viral vector and the cell therapy drug product for Be Bio’s initial rare disease programs to support first-in-human clinical trials. Resilience will apply its pioneering bioprocessing solutions and network of cell therapy sites, including facilities in Research Triangle Park, NC, Philadelphia, PA, Waltham, MA and Marlborough, MA to conduct the work. This collaboration shows our excitement for the promising science of Be Bio’s proprietary BeCM platforms, and our confidence in their expertise to deliver transformative cell therapies, By working alongside Be Bio early in the drug development process, we aim to accelerate the development of their B cell medicines with the potential to unlock a pipeline of product candidates across a variety of serious diseases.” Rahul Singhvi, Sc.D., Chief Executive Officer of Resilience. About B Cells – A New Class of Cellular Medicines Imagine what could “Be?” In nature, a single B cell engrafts in the bone marrow and can produce thousands of proteins per second at constant levels over decades. B cells are nature’s exquisite medicine factories, manufacturing proteins to fight disease and maintain health. Unleashing the power of B cells is driving a new class of cellular medicines – Engineered B Cell Medicines (BeCM). BeCMs have the potential to be durable, allogeneic, redosable and administered without toxic conditioning. The promise of BeCMs could transform therapeutic biologics with broad application — across protein classes, patient populations and therapeutic areas. About Be Biopharma Be Biopharma (“Be Bio”) is pioneering Engineered B Cell Medicines (BeCM) to dramatically improve patients’ lives who are living with cancer, rare diseases and other serious conditions. With eyes locked on the patient, our team of purpose-driven scientists, technologists, manufacturing experts and business builders collaborate to create a bold new class of cell therapies. Be Bio was founded in October 2020 by Longwood Fund and B cell engineering pioneers David Rawlings, M.D., and Richard James, Ph.D. from Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Be Bio is backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, RA Capital Management, Alta Partners, Longwood Fund, Bristol Myers Squibb and Takeda Ventures. Since our founding, Be Bio’s investors have committed over $180 million to enable the Company to re-imagine medicine based on the power of B cell therapy. About Resilience Resilience is a technology-focused biomanufacturing company dedicated to broadening access to complex medicines. Founded in 2020, the company is building a sustainable network of high-tech, end-to-end manufacturing solutions to ensure the treatments of today and tomorrow can be made quickly, safely, and at scale. Resilience seeks to free its partners to focus on the discoveries that improve patients’ lives by continuously advancing the science of biopharmaceutical manufacturing and development.

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DIAGNOSTICS

Phenomix Sciences Announces First Obesity Biobanking Registry and Outcomes Study for Precision Nutrition and Obesity

Phenomix Sciences | May 27, 2022

Phenomix Sciences (Phenomix), a precision biotechnology company bringing data intelligence to the treatment of obesity, announces today the launch of its biobanking registry and outcome study. The registry will study variability in obesity by looking at patients' DNA, metabolomics, hormones, patient behavior, assessments, and treatment outcomes. The data collected will supplement the 20 billion unique data points that make up the Phenomix Sciences Obesity Platform. Mayo Clinic is the first to enroll in the registry with its Rochester site set to contribute patient outcomes from 2,000 patients undergoing treatment for obesity to its biobank. The biobanking registry is a critical milestone in Phenomix's mission to conquer obesity by creating unprecedented access to its clinical and molecular information throughout all stages and phenotypes of the disease. Outcomes data generated from the biobanks across the registry will supplement Phenomix's database of biological and clinical data matched to the four obesity phenotypes. Insights generated from the database are being used to develop more predictive tests to identify the right intervention for each patient with obesity. This will allow for a better understanding of variability in patient outcomes when undergoing obesity treatments. Despite the justifiable excitement about new weight management products such as semaglutide and tirzepatide, several clinical studies from Phenomix's founders indicate that patient response varies with underlying phenotype. Thus, for many patients, it will open the door to the most effective and appropriate intervention for their unique phenotype. A growing body of evidence indicates that obesity is not a single disease with a single treatment type, but a constellation of diseases. Obesity's roots lie in individual DNA; however, evidence suggests there is a complicated web connecting obesity to age, race, and gender, education, and socioeconomic status. Understanding a person's obesity phenotype — the combination of genes with environmental and behavioral factors — can help pinpoint the cause of weight gain. Phenomix's phenotypes are based on research from its physician founders, Andres Acosta, MD, PhD and Michael Camilleri, MD of Mayo Clinic, that has demonstrated when patients have been phenotyped and prescribed the right medications, they can achieve up to 16 percent total body weight loss (TBWL). In addition to creating the first biobanking registry of this type, this is the first large scale study to monitor phenotypes in patients with obesity being treated with a variety of treatments. The impact of this biobanking registry and the data it will yield has the potential to change the entire system's approach to obesity, from a treatment recommendation to the way payers determine coverage and how industry combines diagnostics testing with drug therapy. This unique biobanking registry will provide critical and contemporary data on obesity outcomes, impacting every stakeholder in the episode of care, This registry is an important opportunity to make vast strides in how we understand the complexities of obesity treatment. All obesity programs should be seeking the opportunity to participate and contribute to this registry. The more data we have on the variables that contribute to an individual's obesity diagnosis, the more lives we can save by putting the best treatment plan forward. We believe the investment in the biobanking registry will better support obesity centers by providing concrete evidence and insight into how DNA and other factors need to be considered in treatment. Patients can benefit greatly from achieving the desired outcome the first time around, and payers avoid paying for trial-and-error approaches and can reduce overall co-morbid conditions for members." Mark Bagnall, CEO of Phenomix Sciences. About Phenomix Sciences Phenomix Sciences is a biotechnology pioneer on a mission to conquer obesity globally through the science of phenotyping, the understanding of how genes combined with environmental and behavioral factors can inform obesity treatment plans. Mayo Clinic physicians, scientists, and researchers, Andres Acosta, MD, and Michael Camilleri, MD, founded the company under the belief that the key to understanding obesity is unprecedented access to its clinical and molecular information throughout all stages and phenotypes of the disease. Phenomix leverages data intelligence for yielding better accuracy in predicting individual patient response to specific weight loss interventions and reducing the variability in weight loss results for patients.

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