Amazon Alexa's first HIPAA-sanctioned skills open new doors for pharma

Amazon | April 08, 2019

Amazon Alexa's first HIPAA-sanctioned skills open new doors for pharma
Amazon's new Alexa upgrade offers some HIPAA-compliant skills—and some potential new opportunities for drugmakers that want to jump on the voice-activated AI platform. Amazon announced six partners last week in its first HIPAA-compliant nod for the voice apps it calls "skills." The partners, which include Express Scripts and Livongo, are offering apps that allow consumers to check on prescriptions, find urgent care and schedule visits, and log and track some health data. HIPAA compliance has been on healthcare marketers’ wish list since Alexa was launched. But for pharma marketers, the possibilities are still limited by its position as just one of the stops along a patient’s healthcare journey.

Spotlight

The future of pharmaceutical companies looks uncertain. There could be a world entirely without pharma in the future. Innovative startups and preventive healthcare are slowly but surely crushing the demand for pills, which is all that the industry is selling now. Pharmaceuticals must change their ways, or they will vanish.


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PHARMACY MARKET

Virpax Pharmaceuticals Recaps Milestones and Highlights Product Portfolio

Virpax® Pharmaceuticals, Inc. | December 29, 2021

Virpax® Pharmaceuticals, Inc. "Company" achieved significant milestones relating to its pipeline of product candidates as of the end of 2021, which are summarized below. “I believe that Virpax has made significant progress this past year toward our stated goalsThese accomplishments include accelerated development of our existing product candidates, broadening our pipeline of product candidates, and utilizing grants where appropriate. We recently announced that we anticipate commencing our initial human trial for Epoladerm™ in the second quarter of 2022. Anthony P. Mack, Chairman and CEO of Virpax “Virpax initially focused strictly on pain product candidates. However, our unique Molecular Envelope Technology delivery platform licensed from Nanomerics, Ltd. has enabled the development of product candidates for central nervous system and anti-viral indications. In the second half of 2021, we advanced the development of AnQlar™, a prophylactic, over-the-counter anti-viral product candidate formulated to prevent the spread of respiratory infections like influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and rhinovirus. We added VRP324 which is an intranasally delivered cannabidiol formulation for the management of epilepsy in adults and children. Our Envelta™ IND-enabling studies, completed by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences as a part of our Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, determined that the MET intranasal delivery formulation bypasses the liver which we believe reduces drug-to-drug interaction concerns for treatments using this technology. “On the corporate front, we strengthened our Board by appointing two new members adding expertise in commercialization and financial strategy. Additionally, in 2021 we raised approximately $58 million in aggregate gross proceeds from our initial public offering and an underwritten follow-on public offering. These funds are being used for research and development activities of our product candidates. We are on track to add accomplishments in 2022 and I remain confident that we have the significant financial strength to continue advancing our pipeline,” concluded Mr. Mack. Epoladerm™ Epoladerm is a diclofenac topical spray film product candidate that is being developed for pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Virpax recently reported successful results of a Charles River Laboratories single dose toxicology and pharmacokinetic study of dermal administration of Epoladerm in minipigs as part of the required Investigational New Drug Application enabling trials. Single-dose transdermal delivery of Epoladerm was well-tolerated in all minipigs. There were no treatment-related clinical observations, changes in body weight, or dermal irritation observed. The maximum plasma concentration was reached at 4 hours post-dose, and concentrations of plasma Epoladerm remained at 24-hour post-dose for all animals. Upon completion of all the required IND enabling studies and subsequent review by the FDA, Virpax intends to conduct a Phase 1 study to evaluate the relative bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of Epoladerm™. Virpax recently announced the execution of a clinical trial agreement with Altasciences Company, Inc., to conduct this study in Canada. Virpax anticipates enrollment of the first patient by early second quarter of 2022. Probudur™ Probudur is an injectable bupivacaine liposomal hydrogel for postoperative pain management which Virpax believes has improved onset and extended duration of action compared to existing treatment options. Additional pre-clinical trials are being conducted with Lipocure, the product developer, to improve the formulation to potentially enhance manufacturing efficiencies, prolong duration and extend patent protection. Once completed, we plan to perform seven preclinical animal studies as part of required FDA IND enabling trials. Envelta™ Envelta is an endogenous enkephalin intranasal spray for acute and chronic pain, including pain associated with cancer. This product leverages Nanomeric’s MET platform technology which Virpax licensed to deliver the endogenous enkephalin formulation through an intranasal delivery enabling the enkephalin to permeate the blood-brain barrier while bypassing the liver. This product candidate is being funded through an in-kind CRADA with the NCATS. Virpax recently announced that under this CRADA, the National Institutes of Health has awarded multiple contracts to support the research, development and manufacturing of Envelta. These contracts are to support Good Manufacturing Practices production of drug substance and drug product, as well as to support Good Laboratory Practices toxicology, safety studies and preclinical efficacy studies. The NIH has contracted with a clinical research organization to conduct additional pre-clinical efficacy studies and has procured a device to be used with the manufactured GMP drug product for preclinical and clinical studies. The NIH has also engaged a firm to manufacture Leu-enkephalin, the active ingredient in Envelta, and a company to manufacture the MET carrier that delivers L-ENK to the brain to promptly suppress pain. AnQlar™ AnQlar is a high-density intranasal molecular masking spray in development as an anti-viral OTC product for protection against respiratory infections, such as SARS-CoV-2 and influenza, that Virpax anticipates will be used as an adjuvant to barrier-based personal protective equipment. Virpax recently announced a manufacturing and supply agreement with Seqens to provide AnQlar for both clinical studies and the long-term commercial supply of AnQlar. Additionally, Virpax engaged Sinclair Research to initiate IND-enabling studies for AnQlar. The Company anticipates that these preclinical animal studies will begin in early 2022. VRP324 Virpax has acquired the exclusive worldwide rights from Nanomerics to use its MET platform for the nasal delivery of CBD for the management of epilepsy in children and adults. Under this agreement, Virpax has the global rights to develop, manufacture, market and sell VRP324, the first investigational formulation delivered via the nasal route to enhance CBD transport to the brain. This product candidate will be formulated to potentially treat seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in patients one year of age and older. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome are rare CNS diseases considered serious epileptic encephalopathies that cause epileptic seizures, as well as cognitive and behavioral changes, and are generally resistant to treatment. Preclinical studies of VRP324 have been initiated by Nanomerics which it anticipates will be completed in the first quarter of 2022. Upon completion, Virpax will collaborate with RRD International, a clinical drug development company which Virpax has engaged, to prepare the pre-IND briefing documents for the FDA. About Virpax Pharmaceuticals Virpax is developing branded product candidates for non-addictive pain management and neurological disorders using its proprietary technologies that optimize and target drug delivery. Virpax is initially seeking FDA approval of its three different patented drug delivery platforms. Epoladerm™ is a topical diclofenac spray film formulation being developed to manage pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Probudur™ is a single injection long-acting liposomal bupivacaine formulation being developed to manage post-operative pain. Envelta™ is an intranasal Molecular Envelope Technology enkephalin formulation being developed for the management of acute and chronic pain, including pain associated with cancer, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder under the name PES200. MET technology is also used in AnQlar™, a candidate to inhibit viral replication caused by influenza or SARS-CoV-2. Virpax acquired global rights to VRP324, a product candidate for the nasal delivery of a pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol for the management of epilepsy in children and adults.

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PHARMA TECH

IACTA Pharmaceuticals and TALLC Corporation Announce Strategic Collaboration to Utilize Novel SmartCelle Topical Delivery Technology

IACTA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. | December 16, 2021

IACTA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. an innovation leader in ophthalmic therapeutics, and TALLC Corporation Inc. a pioneering ophthalmology company focused on the growing unmet needs of patients with corneal and retinal conditions, announced that they are entering into a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement. The agreement grants IACTA the use of TALLC’s proprietary SmartCelle™ micellar technology, a novel platform for pan-ocular drug delivery, for future clinical development. IACTA plans to utilize TALLC’s SmartCelle technology to deliver one or more of its novel ophthalmic therapeutics, as well as co-develop new ophthalmology therapeutic candidates that leverage IACTA’s formulation and clinical expertise with TALLC’s novel delivery technology. The collaboration also includes an option agreement, granting IACTA exclusive rights to negotiate a separate license agreement for the right to co-develop TALLC’s lead product candidate TA-A001, a novel anti-inflammatory anti-angiogenic molecule with analgesic properties in various disease state models. “I am thrilled to be able to partner with TALLC, a company with a shared vision focused on addressing the growing and significantly underserved ocular pain market. IACTA was formed with the mission of developing and commercializing innovative ocular therapies through novel compounds and utilizing leading drug delivery technologies, and we view this collaboration as the perfect synergy to realize the full potential of our ophthalmology pipeline. We are excited to explore how best to deploy the SmartCelle technology within our current pipeline, as well as the future co-development opportunities this partnership provides.” Damon Burrows, Chief Executive Officer of IACTA Pharmaceuticals TALLC’s proprietary SmartCelle pan-ocular drug delivery technology employs 30nm micelles that enable delivery of difficult to formulate drugs into corneal and retinal tissues after topical delivery. The company’s pipeline is led by SmartCelle TA-A001, a novel CB2 receptor activator, delivered topically to treat the effects of dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration. “We are delighted to partner with the IACTA team for this important program. IACTA, with its in depth scientific and commercial understanding of the ophthalmic space is an ideal partner for TALLC as we drive towards further commercialization of the SmartCelle platform and TA-A001,” said Damon Smith, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of TALLC. “We look forward to working closely with the IACTA team and to co-developing SmartCelle versions of the IACTA pipeline.” About TALLC, Inc. TALLC is a Montreal-based developer of ophthalmic medicines actively engaged in the commercialization of SmartCelle TA-A001, and its pipeline of SmartCelle-delivered drug candidates, as treatments for acute and chronic inflammation. Focused initially on unmet needs in inflammatory front of eye indications, TALLC plans also to develop SmartCelle TA-A002 and TA-A003 in other chronic conditions including macular degeneration and glaucoma. SmartCelle enables pan ocular delivery of drug candidates by topical application directly to the ocular surface, by injection or by insufflation. About IACTA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. IACTA is an innovation leader in ophthalmic therapeutics, led by former top executives from one of the leading eye care companies in the world. The company currently has four products in development for major market opportunities. IC 800 is a novel, non-opioid, dual enkephalinase inhibitor, being studied for the treatment of acute ocular pain. In addition, IACTA’s IC 265, is a SYK kinase inhibitor being developed as a potential novel treatment for dry eye disease.

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RESEARCH

DEBIOPHARM INVESTS IN VERISIM LIFE'S $15M SERIES A ROUND TO ADVANCE AI-ENABLED DRUG RESEARCH

Debiopharm International SA | January 11, 2022

Debiopharm a Swiss biopharmaceutical company, announced their co-investment in California-based start-up VeriSIM Life's $15 Million Series A Round to advance their mission to accelerate drug development via technology powered by artificial intelligence. VeriSIM Life's computational platform reduces time and cost of drug development as well as reduces the need for animal testing that, in the vast majority of cases, does not translate well to humans. Debiopharm's co-investment in VeriSIM contributes to the growth plan of the start-up and will help to expand and establish transformational partnerships with industry and academia using their first-in-class 'virtual drug development engine' BIOiSIM™. The investment aligns with Debiopharm's focus to invest in digital health solutions that improve the cancer patient journey, transform pharmaceutical R&D, and shift healthcare towards a more patient-centric approach. With the financing round led by Morpheus Ventures, Debiopharm Innovation Fund joins new investors including Colorcon Ventures along with existing investors OCA Ventures, Intel Capital, Serra Ventures and Susa Ventures. Founded in 2017 by Jo Varshney, DVM and PhD alongside a cross-functional team of pharmaceutical scientists, software engineers and AI/ML and simulation experts, the start-up offers a range of translational-based solutions, customized for pre-clinical and clinical programs. "We're moving into a time where AI-based technology will play a critical role in drug development. We absolutely need to reduce the time, costs & risks of drug development in order to be more efficient – that's exactly what the BIOiSIM™ is proven to do. The value of using this AI-based platform is the potential decrease in the need for animal testing and the acceleration of the pre-clinical, translational stage, helping drug research companies to more quickly select which early-stage medicines will most likely benefit patients and cure their disease." Tanja Dowe, CEO of the Debiopharm Innovation Fund More than 90% of drugs tested in animals fail to pass human clinical trials, resulting in delayed development and high costs. VeriSIM's BIOiSIM platform, driven by AI and machine learning (ML), de-risks R&D decisions by providing meaningful insights much earlier in the drug development process with unprecedented accuracy and scalability. VeriSIM's platform solves this decade-old translatability problem within the drug development phase and ensures clinical success of drugs intended for highly unmet needs. With its first-in-class platform, VeriSIM is transforming the way pharmaceutical and biotech companies address the most challenging diseases impacting humankind. About VeriSIM Life VeriSIM Life has developed a sophisticated computational platform that leverages advanced AI and ML techniques to significantly improve drug discovery and development by greatly reducing the time and money it takes to bring a drug to market. BIOiSIM is a first-in-class 'virtual drug development engine' that offers unprecedented value for the drug development industry by narrowing down the number of drug compounds that offer anticipated value for the treatment or cure of specific illnesses or diseases. The program not only reduces the time and cost of drug discovery and development, it also greatly reduces the need for animal testing that, in the vast majority of cases, does not translate to humans. Debiopharm's commitment to patients Debiopharm develops, manufactures and invests in innovative therapies and technologies that respond to high unmet medical needs in oncology and bacterial infections. We aim to provide strategic funding and guidance for companies with Smart Data & Digital Health solutions with the ambition to change the way drugs are developed and the way patients are treated. Our growing portfolio company achievements includes 18 FDA clearances or CE marks and 2 IPOs. Since 2018 Debiopharm has invested over USD 120 million, typically leading the investment rounds of its 16 portfolio companies.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

OPTEL ACQUIRES PHARMA TRACK-AND-TRACE UNIT OF KÖRBER

OPTEL Group | January 12, 2022

OPTEL GROUP, already a world leader in supply chain traceability, is expanding its expertise and global reach with the recent acquisition of the track-and-trace unit of the Körber Business Area Pharma, formerly known as Traxeed, based in Germany. Körber is a leading international technology group. The acquisition, announced today, will allow OPTEL to leverage the unit's expertise in pharmaceutical and agrochemical track-and-trace technologies, provide the company with a second foothold in the European marketplace and contribute to its diversification plans. "Creating a strong presence in the German market is key to the success of our strategic objectives because Germany is a well-established manufacturing hub, with a strong history of developing innovative manufacturing efficiency solutions and Industry 4.0 technologies," Louis Roy, founder and president of OPTEL "We are pleased that we have found a solid and future-oriented new owner with a broad international market access, from whose global network and years of experience in the highly specialized track-and-trace sector customers will clearly benefit. We are furthermore convinced that the new strategic owner can open up attractive development opportunities for the team," said Dr. Jürgen Krebs, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer in the Körber Business Area Pharma. The acquisition allows OPTEL to welcome highly skilled pharma track-and-trace experts from Körber, complementing OPTEL's existing strengths in traceability, vision technologies, software and hardware. Furthermore, it will solidify and expand the company's presence in the European market by providing a second base of operations after Limerick, Ireland. In addition to the acquisition, a close collaboration between OPTEL and Körber's Business Area Pharma is planned in the future. The two companies plan to sign a partnership agreement whereby OPTEL becomes Körber's preferred partner for track-and-trace solutions for the pharmaceutical industry. Since its founding in 1989, OPTEL has become the world's foremost provider of track-and-trace solutions to the pharmaceutical industry. Its acquisitions in recent years have positioned it as the only company with the ability to provide complete, full-stack supply chain traceability. The Canadian multinational has since diversified into other industries, including consumer-packaged goods, metals and minerals, and agrochemicals. The acquisition of the track-and-trace unit of the Körber Business Area Pharma is expected to accelerate further expansion. ABOUT OPTEL OPTEL is a leading global provider of traceability systems whose goal is to use its innovative technologies to build a sustainable world through the Intelligent Supply Chain. OPTEL is the only company with the ability to offer complete end-to-end traceability, providing granular data at every step of the supply chain – from raw materials to the consumer and beyond. Founded in 1989, OPTEL is a Certified B Corporation headquartered in Canada, with facilities in Ireland, India and Brazil, as well as employees worldwide. ABOUT KÖRBER We are Körber – an international technology group with about 10,000 employees, more than 100 locations worldwide and a common goal: We turn entrepreneurial thinking into customer success and shape the technological change. In the Business Areas Digital, Pharma, Supply Chain, Tissue and Tobacco, we offer products, solutions and services that inspire. We act fast to customer needs, we execute ideas seamlessly, and with our innovations we create added value for our customers. In doing so, we are increasingly building on ecosystems that solve the challenges of today and tomorrow. Körber AG is the holding company of the Körber Group.

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Spotlight

The future of pharmaceutical companies looks uncertain. There could be a world entirely without pharma in the future. Innovative startups and preventive healthcare are slowly but surely crushing the demand for pills, which is all that the industry is selling now. Pharmaceuticals must change their ways, or they will vanish.

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