Gut bacteria make key amino acids dispensable, expanding food options for invasive flies

Phys.org | January 16, 2019

Fruit flies fed antibiotics to suppress their gut microbiome are forced to avoid the best food patches if they lack vital amino acids, according to a study by Boaz Yuval from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Chang-Ying Nui from Huazhong Agricultural University in China, publishing January 16, 2019, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. Symbiotic gut bacteria have been found to influence insect metabolism, immunity, and reproduction, but the mechanisms underpinning these connections are poorly understood. The researchers observed the response of oriental fruit flies (Bactrocera dorsalis) to a laboratory foraging arena. Half of the 60 flies were first fed antibiotic-laced sugar to eliminate their resident gut microbes—which are able to produce nitrogen from non-essential amino acids. The team then starved the flies of protein for 24 hours and then offered them a selection of food droplets of different sizes consisting of sugar, minerals, and either a full complement of 18 amino acids or just 8 non-essential amino acids, which are a poor source of nitrogen.
They found that flies lacking gut bacteria landed and started feeding faster, spent longer feeding, and consumed more droplets of food than flies that still possessed a normal gut microbiome. Flies with a functioning microbiome chose to feed on larger droplets, regardless of their nutritional composition, whereas flies that had been fed antibiotics were constrained to feeding on droplets containing essential amino acids like arginine and leucine. Oriental fruit flies are highly invasive pests of crops across Asia, capable of attacking over 350 plant species. Understanding how gut bacteria influence the insects' feeding behavior could help scientists develop improved strategies to control or eradicate them.

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Bio-Manufacturing Partner BioElpida Completes Next Phase of BVX-0918 GMP Production for EU Clinical Study

BioVaxys | June 09, 2022

BioVaxys Technology Corp. (CSE: BIOV) (FRA: 5LB) (OTCQB: BVAXF) ("BioVaxys" or "Company"), announced today that its Lyon, France-based bioproduction partner, BioElpida ("BioElpida"), has completed the creation of multiple OVCAR-3 cell banks as the next step in the GMP manufacturing process development for BVX-0918, BioVaxys' vaccine for treatment of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. The OVCAR-3 cell line is mandatory for creating the identity assays that will have to be performed on every batch of ovarian cancer vaccine. This assay is required by regulatory bodies in the EU and United States. The cell line is derived from a human ovarian adenocarcinoma, established from a patient refractory to cisplatin, a chemotherapeutic agent used in late-stage ovarian cancer. Patients whose tumors are innately cisplatin-resistant at the time of initial treatment generally have poor prognosis, which is the patient population target for BVX-0918. Completion of OVCAR-3 cell banks is another step towards our ability to produce GMP yields of BVX-0918, and brings us closer to our Phase I study in the EU planned for later this year." BioVaxys President and Chief Operating Officer Kenneth Kovan. BioVaxys recently entered collaborations with Hospices Civils de Lyon in France and Deaconess Research Institute in the United States to provide the Company with surgically debulked tumors from Stage III/Stage IV ovarian cancer patients. Tumor samples from both hospitals are being used to validate the tumor collection protocol, cryopackaging, cryopreservation, and supply chain logistics for BVX-0918 bioproduction for prospective patients in the US and EU. Tumor samples from HCL will also be used for process testing and manufacturing "dry runs" of BVX-0918, a major step leading to the completion of Good Manufacturing Process ("GMP") production. BioVaxys' vaccine platform is based on the established immunological concept that modifying surface proteins---whether they are viral or tumor---with haptens makes them more visible to the immune system. This process of haptenization "teaches" a patient's immune system to recognize and make target proteins more "visible" as foreign, thereby stimulating a T-cell mediated immune response. BioVaxys' cancer vaccines are created by extracting a patient's own (autologous) cancer cells, chemically linking with a hapten, and re-injecting them into the patient to induce an immune response to proteins which are otherwise not immunogenic. Haptenization is a well-known and well-studied immunotherapeutic approach to cancer immunotherapy and has been clinically evaluated in both regional and disseminated metastatic tumors. A first generation single-hapten vaccine invented by BioVaxys Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer David Berd, MD, achieved positive immunological and clinical results in Phase I and Phase II human trials in over 600 patients with different tumor types, as well as having no observed toxicity in years of clinical study. These studies were conducted under an FDA-reviewed IND. A first generation autologous, haptenized vaccine was also tested by Dr. Berd in women with advanced ovarian cancer who had ceased to respond to conventional chemotherapy. The results were encouraging: In 24 patients, the median overall survival was 25.4 months with a range of 4.5-57.4 months; 8 patients survived for more than 2 years. BioVaxys has enhanced the first-generation approach by utilizing two haptens ("bi-haptenization"), which the Company believes will yield superior results. About BioVaxys Technology Corp. Based in Vancouver, BioVaxys Technology Corp. (www.biovaxys.com) is a British Columbia-registered, clinical stage biotechnology company that is developing viral and oncology vaccine platforms, as well as immuno-diagnostics. The Company is advancing vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and a pan-sarbecovirus vaccine based on its haptenized viral protein technology, and is planning a clinical trial of its haptenized autologous cell vaccine used in combination with anti-PD1 and anti-PDL1 checkpoint inhibitors that will initially be developed for Stage III/Stage IV ovarian cancer. Also in development is CoviDTH®, a diagnostic for evaluating the presence or absence of a T cell immune response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. BioVaxys has two issued US patents, and multiple US and international patent applications related to its cancer vaccines, antiviral vaccines, and diagnostic technologies. BioVaxys common shares are listed on the CSE under the stock symbol "BIOV" and trade on the Frankfurt Bourse (FRA: 5LB) and in the US (OTCQB: BVAXF).

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT

Akili Announces Public Company Board of Director Nominees

Akili Interactive | July 11, 2022

Akili Interactive a leading digital medicine company pioneering the development of cognitive treatments through game-changing technologies, announced the nominees for its future board of directors, effective upon the closing of Akili’s business combination with Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp. I subject to customary closing conditions. Shares of the new public company’s common stock are expected to trade on Nasdaq under the symbol “AKLI.” Akili’s public company board of directors is expected to consist of seven directors, with several new and recent additions, including William (BJ) Jones, Chief Commercial Officer of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals; Christine Lemke, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Evidation Health; Ken Ehlert, former Chief Scientific Officer at UnitedHealth Group; and Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital and Chairman and Managing Partner of SCS. Nominees also include existing Akili directors Bharatt Chowrira, Ph.D., J.D., Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D. and Eddie Martucci, Ph.D. These director nominees bring industry leadership and deep expertise in access and reimbursement, innovative go-to-market approaches and groundbreaking research that will guide Akili as the company enters its next phase of growth to commercialize digital therapeutics at scale. “Akili is creating a new class of medicine that has the potential to fundamentally change how we think about cognitive health. As we forge this new path, it’s important to have a broad range of expertise, from pioneering leading-edge science to navigating our healthcare system to establishing new standards of patient care. The board and I look forward to supporting Eddie and his team as they bring their first product to market, and hopefully many more breakthrough therapeutics in the coming years.” Chamath Palihapitiya, incoming chair of Akili’s board of directors Eddie Martucci, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Akili, added: “We look forward to becoming a publicly-traded company through our merger with SCS and we are proud to nominate this impressive slate of life sciences and technology leaders to constitute Akili’s new public board and help guide our corporate and clinical strategy.” Board Member Biographies Chamath Palihapitiya founded Social Capital in 2011 and has been its Managing Partner since its inception. Mr. Palihapitiya also serves as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the board of directors of DNAB, DNAC and DNAD. In addition, Mr. Palihapitiya currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the board of directors of each of Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. IV and Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. VI. Mr. Palihapitiya previously served as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the board of directors of Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. from May 2017 until the consummation of its business combination with Virgin Galactic in October 2019, and served as the Chairman of the board of directors of Virgin Galactic until February 2022. Mr. Palihapitiya also previously served as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the board of directors of Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. II until the consummation of its business combination with Opendoor Labs Inc. in December 2020 and as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the board of directors of Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. III until the consummation of its business combination with Clover Health Investments, Corp. in January 2021 and as the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the board of directors of Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. V until the consummation of its business combination with Social Finance, Inc. in May 2021. Mr. Palihapitiya also served as a director of Slack Technologies Inc. from April 2014 until October 2019. Prior to founding Social Capital in 2011, Mr. Palihapitiya served as Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, and is recognized as having been a major force in its launch and growth. Mr. Palihapitiya was responsible for overseeing Monetization Products and Facebook Platform. Prior to working for Facebook, Mr. Palihapitiya was a principal at the Mayfield Fund, one of the United States’ oldest venture firms, before which he headed the instant messaging division at AOL. Mr. Palihapitiya graduated from the University of Waterloo, Canada with a degree in electrical engineering. William Jones, Jr. has served as Chief Commercial Officer of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals Holding Company Ltd., a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company, where he has been responsible for building the company’s commercial capability and launching their first FDA-approved product (Nurtec ODT), since April 2019. Prior to Biohaven, from January 2016 to March 2019, Mr. Jones served as Vice President, Head of Sales and Commercial Operations for the general medicine business unit of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, a publicly traded pharmaceutical company. Mr. Jones holds a B.S. in human factors engineering from the United States Air Force Academy, an M.S. in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Christine Lemke has served as a member of Akili’s board of directors since September 2021. Since March 2012, Ms. Lemke has been employed by Evidation Health, Inc., a real-world health measurement and engagement platform, where she currently serves as Co-Chief Executive Officer and Director. Since February 2016, she has also served as co-founder and General Partner of Ensemble Labs, GP, an investor in early stage health technology companies. Prior to Evidation Health and Ensemble Labs, Ms. Lemke was co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Sense Networks, Inc., developers of the first machine learning platform for mobile phone activity data. Ms. Lemke holds a B.A. in business from the University of Washington and an MBA from HEC Paris. Kenneth Ehlert has served as a member of Akili’s board of directors since December 2021. Previously, he held senior leadership positions at UnitedHealth Group, a publicly traded managed healthcare and insurance company, including most recently as Chief Scientific Officer from December 2017 to July 2021. From January 2009 until December 2017, Mr. Ehlert served as Chief Executive Officer of Savvysherpa Inc., a research and development firm. Mr. Ehlert holds a B.A. in economics and mathematics from Brigham Young University and an M.S. in applied economics from the University of Minnesota. Bharatt Chowrira, Ph.D., J.D., has served as a member of Akili’s board of directors since June 2021 and previously served as a member of Akili’s board of directors from November 2017 until September 2019. Since February 2017, Dr. Chowrira has served as President and as a member of the board of directors of PureTech Health plc. Prior to joining PureTech Health, Dr. Chowrira served as President of Synlogic, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing synthetic microbiome-based therapeutics. Dr. Chowrira also previously served as Chief Operating Officer of Auspex Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotechnology company, and as President and Chief Executive Officer of Addex Therapeutics Ltd., a biotechnology company. Prior to that, Dr. Chowrira held various leadership roles at Nektar Therapeutics, Merck & Co., Sirna Therapeutics and Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals. Since September 2018, Dr. Chowrira has also served as a member of the board of directors of Vedanta Biosciences, Inc., a clinical stage company. He was previously on the boards of Vor Biopharma, Inc., a publicly-traded cell and genome engineering company, between August 2018 and June 2020, and Karuna Therapeutics, Inc., a publicly-traded biopharmaceutical company, from August 2017 to December 2019. Dr. Chowrira received a J.D. from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, an M.S. in molecular biology from Illinois State University and a B.S. in microbiology from the UAS, Bangalore, India. Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D., one of Akili’s co-founders, has served as a member of Akili’s board of directors since November 2014 and as Chief Science Advisor since January 2011. Dr. Gazzaley is the David Dolby Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (“UCSF”), and the Founder & Executive Director of Neuroscape at UCSF, where he has been employed since July 2005. Additionally, Dr. Gazzaley is co-founder and Chief Scientific Advisor of JAZZ Venture Partners LLC, a venture capital firm focused on technologies that improve human performance. Dr. Gazzaley has also been on the Board of Trustees of the California Academy of Sciences since May 2019, a Science Council Member there since August 2019, and a Science Fellow there since May 2020. From January 2015 to January 2018, he served as a Science Board member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Dr. Gazzaley holds a B.S. in biochemistry from Binghamton University, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience and an M.D. from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and his residency in neurology at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. W. Edward Martucci, Ph.D., one of Akili’s co-founders, has served as Akili’s Chief Executive Officer and as a member of Akili’s board of directors since August 2015, including as Akili’s employee beginning in September 2017. From June 2009 to September 2017, Dr. Martucci was employed by PureTech Health PLC, a publicly traded biotherapeutics company, where he co-founded Akili in 2011 and served as Akili’s Chief Operating Officer from 2011 until August 2015. Since February 2017, he has served on the board of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, a digital therapeutics industry advocacy organization. Dr. Martucci holds a B.S. in biochemistry from Providence College and a M.Phil. and Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University. About Akili Akili is pioneering the development of cognitive treatments through game-changing technologies. Our approach of leveraging technologies designed to directly target the brain establishes a new category of medicine – medicine that is validated through clinical trials like a drug or medical device but experienced like entertainment. Akili’s platform is powered by proprietary therapeutic engines designed to target cognitive impairment at its source in the brain, informed by decades of research and validated through rigorous clinical programs. Driven by Akili’s belief that effective medicine can also be fun and engaging, Akili’s products are delivered through captivating action video game experiences.

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT

Persephone Biosciences Closes $15M Seed Financing Round

Persephone Biosciences | July 20, 2022

Persephone Biosciences Inc., a synthetic biology company reimagining patient and infant health through the development of microbiome-based medicines, today announced that it has closed a $15 million seed financing round. The round was co-led by First Bight Ventures and Propel Bio Partners, and included investments from Y Combinator, Fifty Years, Susa Ventures, American Cancer Society’s BrightEdge Fund, Pioneer Fund, and ZhenFund among others. “This financing is a significant milestone for Persephone and the culmination of years of thoughtful engagement with forward-thinking investors and individuals who are committed to the vast potential of our platform and technology. We plan to deploy this capital to further expand our research and clinical programs across a range of therapeutic areas, as well as pursue new collaborations. With our ARGONAUT study ramping up, it is an exciting time for us. We are grateful for the support of all our stakeholders and their commitment and confidence in our vision.” Stephanie Culler, CEO and Co-founder of Persephone Biosciences Persephone was founded to leverage a unique understanding of the microbiome as a therapeutic approach for a number of indications, including infant health and oncology. The company’s ARGONAUT trial (NCT04638751) is the largest study ever conducted in the U.S. to identify biomarkers for cancer treatment and prevention by mapping the gut-immune axis. In December 2021, Persephone announced that Janssen Biotech, one of Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, would collaborate with the company on the colorectal cancer patient arm of ARGONAUT, and on an arm of additional healthy individuals with varying cancer risk. Then in April 2022, Persephone announced a collaboration with Ginkgo Bioworks to enable the synthetic biology tools needed to develop the next generation of microbial therapies. About Persephone Biosciences Persephone Biosciences is pioneering the use of synthetic biology for the development of microbial products that impact patient and infant health. Persephone is building an end-to-end platform to industrialize the development of engineered cells that restore health to damaged human ecosystems. The company was founded in the summer of 2017 by synthetic and metabolic engineering pioneers, Stephanie Culler, Ph.D., and Steve Van Dien, Ph.D.

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT

WuXi XDC and AbTis Sign Memorandum of Understanding for Development and Manufacturing of Antibody Drug Conjugates

WuXi Biologics | July 08, 2022

WuXi XDC, a global leading CRDMO dedicated to end-to-end bioconjugates services, and AbTis, a Korean biotechnology company dedicated to the development of antibody drug conjugates announced that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to form a strategic partnership in AbTis' portfolio of ADC products. Under the partnership, AbTis will have access to WuXi XDC's integrated services for linker and payload manufacturing, ADC conjugation process development, ADC formulation and drug product manufacturing process development, as well as drug substance and drug product manufacturing. This full range of development and manufacturing services will be provided by WuXi XDC at facilities that are all located within a two-hour drive of each other. "We are glad to be collaborating with WuXi XDC. This partnership will allow us to leverage WuXi XDC's world-class expertise in both innovative conjugation technologies and comprehensive capabilities for ADC development and manufacturing. We look forward to making more ADC products accessible to patients." Dr. Sang Jeon Chung, CEO of AbTis "With our integrated services and know-how, we are pleased to be enabling AbTis to develop and manufacture its portfolio of ADC products," said Dr. Jimmy Li, CEO of WuXi XDC. "This strategic partnership demonstrates the trust and confidence our clients have in our end-to-end services, maintained even during the COVID-19 lockdown period, when WuXi XDC teams showcased the strong execution and reflected our commitment to a culture of 'Putting the Customer First.' We will continue to accelerate and transform the discovery, development and manufacturing of bioconjugates, enabling our global partners and benefiting patients worldwide." About AbTis AbTis is a biotechnology company that specializes in antibody-drug conjugates platform technology with its own proprietary patents and its own pipelines in developments in oncology areas. AbTis pipelines are designed to enhance the safety and efficacy of the current antibody-drug conjugates by applying AbTis linker to the mAbs. Its platform ADC linker technology is site-specific and applicable to the native antibodies, commercial antibodies, or novel antibodies under development as it requires no mutation or engineering to antibody itself. Its stable, hydrophilic and cleavable linkers can be attached to various payloads, too. Under the moto of "Patients First", AbTis has been striving to advance its ADC technology and to develop its pipelines with several other antibody and payload companies. AbTis' advanced ADC technology enables partners to co-develop pipelines together in a real open innovation setting. About WuXi XDC WuXi XDC, a joint venture between WuXi Biologics and WuXi STA, provides end-to-end contract research, development and manufacturing of bioconjugates, including antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). The company's services cover antibodies and other biologics, chemical payloads and linkers, as well as bioconjugated drug substance and drug product. WuXi XDC has been successful in bringing multiple ADC projects to the Investigational New Drug (IND) filing stage in 15 months or less, nearly cutting in half the traditional development timeline. As of April 30, 2022, over 240 projects – from early stage to late-stage clinical – are being developed at WuXi XDC, including 26 IND-completed projects and eight projects in phase II/III.

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Spotlight

From tiny startups to global giants, the companies that sustain the $324 billion U.S. biotech industry are increasingly alarmed as President Donald Trump considers following his controversial travel ban with restrictions on skilled foreign immigrants. Bloomberg's Doni Bloomfield reports from the nation's biotech hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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