A Breath of Fresh CRISPR

Genome editing materials can’t just breeze into cells. Or can they? Even cells so well defended as lung and airway cells may admit wisps of genome editing proteins such as CRISPR-associated nucleases. All that’s needed is an inspired delivery method. One possibility is the aerosolization of amphiphilic peptides. Amphiphilic peptides combine hydrophilic and lipophilic properties and facilitate the translocation of proteins across membranes. These peptides are being evaluated for various applications, including genome editing. In fact, scientists from the University of Iowa, in collaboration with scientists from Feldan Therapeutics, recently used engineered amphiphilic peptides to deliver genome editing nucleases and ribonucleoproteins to cultured human airway epithelial cells and mouse lungs.

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Jnana Therapeutics Announces Positive Clinical Proof of Concept Achieved with JNT-517, a Potential First-in-Class Oral Treatment for PKU

Jnana Therapeutics, Inc. | February 02, 2024

Jnana Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company leveraging its next-generation chemoproteomics platform to discover medicines for challenging-to-drug targets, today announced positive, statistically significant interim results from its ongoing clinical study of JNT-517 in individuals with phenylketonuria (PKU). JNT-517, a small molecule inhibitor of the phenylalanine (Phe) transporter SLC6A19, is being evaluated as a potential first-in-class oral treatment for PKU across all ages and genotypes. On the basis of these positive interim results, Jnana has adapted the Phase 1b trial design to support the potential for accelerated progression of JNT-517. “There is an urgent need for an oral, safe, and efficacious therapy for the more than 60% of individuals with PKU not currently on therapy. Across the spectrum of mild to severe disease, our results demonstrate a robust, sustained reduction in blood Phe levels, the registrational endpoint for PKU, giving us high confidence in the path forward for JNT-517,” said George Vratsanos, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Head of R&D at Jnana Therapeutics. “We are also encouraged by this validation of the power of our RAPID platform to discover small molecules with compelling clinical benefit against challenging-to-drug targets.” JNT-517 is being studied in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in individuals with mild to severe PKU. Following a 28-day screening period focused predominantly on ensuring an average blood Phe level of >600µM, study participants were randomized with no run-in period to 75mg of JNT-517 twice daily (BID) or placebo. The planned interim analysis was based on 13 participants, eight dosed with JNT-517 and five dosed with placebo over 28 days, and demonstrated the following results JNT-517 led to a statistically significant (p=0.0019 vs. placebo) mean blood Phe reduction from baseline of 51%, measured per-protocol at day 28. A high response rate was seen where seven of eight (88%) treated participants achieved >30% reduction in blood Phe from baseline; five of eight (63%) achieved >45% reduction; and two of eight (25%) achieved >65% reduction. A robust response was seen across participants treated with JNT-517 irrespective of baseline blood Phe levels, which ranged from 593µM to 1,526µM with a mean of 1,124µM. A rapid onset of effect was observed with significant blood Phe reduction achieved within seven days after commencing dosing, which was sustained through the full 28 days of dosing. JNT-517 was safe and well tolerated with no serious adverse events and no clinically significant changes in laboratory parameters, consistent with the safety profile demonstrated in the Phase 1a healthy volunteer study. "JNT-517 represents a completely new therapeutic approach that could transform the current treatment paradigm in PKU, in particular for individuals with severe, or classical, PKU where there is the highest unmet medical need,” said Cary O. Harding, M.D., study investigator and Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine. “I am encouraged by the clinical results to date and look forward to working with Jnana and the PKU community to continue to advance this program.” Based on these interim results, Jnana has adapted the protocol of the ongoing trial to include dose exploration. Jnana expects topline data from the second dose cohort in mid-2024 and plans to submit full data from the two dose cohorts for presentation at a scientific meeting in the second half of 2024. Jnana anticipates the company will engage regulators in the second half of 2024 and seek to advance JNT-517 directly into a pivotal Phase 3 study in the first half of 2025. JNT-517 Phase 1b Clinical Trial The ongoing clinical program includes a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and effect on blood and urinary Phe of JNT-517 dosed over a four-week period in individuals diagnosed with PKU. The study dosed its first participant with PKU in August 2023 and is enrolling individuals aged 18 to 65 at clinical sites in the United States and Australia. For more information about the study, please see clinicaltrials.gov (NCT05781399). About JNT-517 JNT-517 is a selective small molecule inhibitor of the Phe transporter SLC6A19 that has the potential to be a first-in-class oral therapy used to treat any person with PKU, regardless of age or genotype. JNT-517 acts at a novel, cryptic allosteric site to block kidney reabsorption of Phe and offers a promising new approach to reduce blood Phe levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted JNT-517 Rare Pediatric Disease Designation in late 2022. About PKU PKU is a rare inherited metabolic disorder caused by a deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). This enzyme is required for the breakdown of phenylalanine (Phe), an amino acid found in all protein-containing foods. When PAH is deficient or defective, Phe accumulates to abnormally high levels in the blood. If left untreated, toxic levels of Phe in the blood can result in progressive and severe neurological impairment and neuropsychological complications. The SLC transporter SLC6A19 is responsible for kidney reabsorption of Phe back into the bloodstream, and the inhibition of SLC6A19 offers a novel, oral approach for the treatment of PKU by facilitating urinary excretion of excess Phe. About Jnana Therapeutics Jnana Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotechnology company leveraging its next-generation RAPID chemoproteomics platform to discover medicines for highly validated, challenging-to-drug targets to treat diseases with high unmet needs. Jnana is focused on developing first- and best-in-class therapies to treat a wide range of diseases, including rare diseases and immune-mediated diseases. Jnana’s wholly owned lead program, JNT-517, which targets an allosteric site on the phenylalanine transporter SLC6A19, is a potential first-in-class oral approach for the treatment of PKU, a rare genetic metabolic disease. Located in Boston, Jnana brings together scientific leaders in small molecule drug discovery and development, a highly experienced management team, and the backing of leading life science investors Bain Capital Life Sciences, RA Capital Management, Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures, Avalon Ventures, Pfizer Ventures, and AbbVie Ventures.

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Industrial Impact

Nimbus Therapeutics Announces Expansion of Its Immunology Drug Discovery Pipeline

Nimbus Therapeutics | January 08, 2024

Nimbus Therapeutics, LLC a biotechnology company that designs and develops breakthrough medicines through its powerful computational drug discovery engine, announced the advancement and expansion of its pipeline with the addition of discovery programs targeting innate immunity pathways. These programs, targeting the salt-inducible kinase (SIK) family and cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS), represent promising opportunities to leverage Nimbus’ industry-leading computational and structure-based drug design expertise to develop highly selective, potent medicines addressing areas of significant unmet need. "Building on the success of our TYK2 program, we are broadening our drug discovery engine to unlock new difficult-to-drug targets with compelling biology,” said Peter Tummino, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Nimbus. “SIK and cGAS are critical targets in highly prevalent diseases that are well suited to Nimbus’ structure-based drug design approach. We look forward to advancing our discovery and development programs across oncology, immunology, and metabolism to deliver transformative medicines to patients.” Nimbus is advancing its Phase 1/2 trial (NCT05128487) of NDI-101150, a small molecule inhibitor of hematopoietic progenitor kinase 1 (HPK1), and has reported positive dose escalation data showing potential monotherapy clinical benefit for patients with solid tumors. Furthermore, the company expects to initiate IND-enabling activities this year for its oncology program targeting Werner syndrome helicase (WRN). In collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company, Nimbus continues to progress the development of novel targeted therapies that activate AMPK to potentially treat a broad range of metabolic disorders. Nimbus continues to expand its platform capabilities with ongoing investments in cutting-edge technology for drug discovery. Alongside proprietary computational tools which the company has developed in-house, Nimbus’ platform leverages state-of-the-art technology through collaborations such as its recently announced partnership with Anagenex, a leader in generative AI for drug design. Jeb Keiper, M.S., MBA, Nimbus’ Chief Executive Officer, will provide an overview of the company’s progress and pipeline and anticipated milestones for 2024 and beyond at the 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on Monday, January 8, 2024 at 7:30 am PT. About Nimbus Therapeutics Nimbus Therapeutics is a clinical-stage, structure-based drug discovery company developing novel small molecule medicines designed to act against well-validated but difficult-to-drug targets implicated in multiple human diseases. Nimbus combines leading-edge computational technologies with a tailored array of machine learning-based predictive modeling approaches. Nimbus’ pipeline includes a clinical-stage HPK1 inhibitor for the treatment of cancer (NCT05128487), as well as a diverse portfolio of preclinical programs focused on cancer, autoimmune conditions, and metabolic diseases. Nimbus is headquartered in Boston, Mass.

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Industrial Impact

MOMA Therapeutics Announces Five-Year Discovery Collaboration with Roche Focused on Critical Cancer Dependencies

MOMA Therapeutics | January 04, 2024

MOMA Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on identifying and targeting highly dynamic, difficult to drug targets in cancer and other diseases, is pleased to announce a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement with Roche. This partnership provides Roche with access to MOMA’s proprietary KnowledgeBase platform for the identification and prosecution of a certain number of novel drug targets involved in promoting cancer cell growth and survival. MOMA’s KnowledgeBase comprises integrated structure-function capabilities, advanced lead-finding technologies and computation-enabled lead optimization. It was built upon the concept that functionally related targets lacking sequence homology still possess three dimensional structural motifs that can be exploited to produce highly impactful therapies. To date, MOMA has utilized this bespoke platform to accelerate drug discovery in the ATPase target class, a class with a high number of genetically validated targets for which industry efforts to identify therapeutically viable drugs have been hampered by the extent of dynamic protein motion. “Given its deep expertise and global footprint in oncology, Roche represents an ideal collaborator with whom to further advance the application of MOMA’s platform in a way that impacts patients’ lives. The vision for this collaboration was crafted jointly with Roche to enable each party to bring its strengths in pursuit of this shared goal. It also contributes to the long-term sustainability of MOMA’s core focus as we advance our rich pipeline of precision oncology programs to the clinic,” said Asit Parikh, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of MOMA. Through the collaboration, MOMA will receive $66 million as an upfront cash payment and is also eligible to receive discovery, development, and commercialization milestone payments potentially exceeding US$2 billion, as well as tiered royalties. MOMA will be primarily responsible for all activities for selected targets through to development candidate confirmation, whereas Roche will be responsible for IND-enabling activities and clinical development and commercialization. Additionally, if multiple collaboration assets reach pivotal clinical studies, MOMA will receive a right to co-fund late-stage development of one product in exchange for increased royalties in the US on this product. “We are excited to join forces with MOMA, combining our leadership in oncology with MOMA’s deep expertise in drug discovery for difficult-to-drug and novel targets in oncology. The broader field of cancer dependencies is of high importance for Roche and we are looking forward to further deepening our knowledge and discovering novel targets involved in cancer cell growth and survival leveraging MOMA’s innovative platform,” said James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., global head of pharma partnering, Roche. “It is exciting to utilize our industry-leading knowledge in how to identify and drug highly dynamic proteins to deliver on a breadth of discovery programs in partnership with Roche,” added Peter Hammerman, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer and head of development at MOMA. “Along with bringing two MOMA-owned high-impact programs to the clinic next year, we are making exciting progress towards our goal of addressing key unmet needs for patients living with advanced cancer.” About MOMA Therapeutics MOMA Therapeutics is committed to discovering the next generation of precision medicines by targeting highly dynamic proteins that underlie human disease. Bringing together seminal scientific advancements in biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, chemistry, computation, and functional genomics, the company has established the KnowledgeBase platform to exploit a key vulnerability inherent to all dynamic proteins: their dependence on well-coordinated, stepwise changes in protein conformation. By focusing this platform on disease-causing targets, MOMA aims to develop high impact, precision medicines for patients with unmet medical needs. MOMA Therapeutics is a private company launched in 2020 with seasoned leadership, a highly specialized workforce with deep expertise in oncology discovery, world-class scientific founders, and financed by leading biotech investors.

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Cell and Gene Therapy

Solvias to Perform Release Testing on World's First CRISPR-based Gene-Editing Therapy

Solvias | January 23, 2024

Solvias, a global provider of chemistry, manufacturing, and control (CMC) analytics, announced that it will perform analytical release testing services on the world's first CRISPR/Cas9 genome-edited cell therapy. The company has signed a long-term agreement with Vertex Pharmaceuticals for CASGEVY™ (exagamglogene autotemcel or exa-cel) which received U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD) in patients 12 years and older with recurrent vaso-occlusive crises. Solvias and Vertex Pharmaceuticals have worked together for several years to develop and validate test methods that are critical for the final release of patients' own edited cells, so that they can be delivered back to patients. The companies' collaboration included establishing the testing methods that will be scaled for commercializing CASGEVY. Solvias also has invested significantly in preparing one of its global facilities to support the commercial release work for this transformative therapy. Archie Cullen, Chief Executive Officer, Solvias, stated "Solvias is honored to be playing a critical role in delivering this breakthrough therapy to patients. Our decades of experience offering comprehensive GMP analytical services uniquely positions us to partner with companies in bringing their therapies to market. This collaboration highlights our deep scientific knowledge and creative solutions serving to advance even the most cutting-edge therapies." In addition to gaining FDA approval, CASGEVY recently received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency's (EMA's) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use for conditional approval of the treatment of severe SCD and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia (TDT). About Solvias Solvias is a global provider of chemistry, manufacturing, and control (CMC) analytics to the pharmaceutical, biotech, material science, and cosmetic industries. Its team of scientists and regulatory experts have years of experience in small molecules, biologics, and cell and gene therapies. The company offers comprehensive solutions from raw materials to drug products to final release testing, as well as API development and manufacturing for small molecules. Headquartered near Basel, Switzerland, Solvias operates five facilities to the highest standards and in accordance with ISO, GMP, GLP and FDA regulations.

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