Feinstein Institutes | November 29, 2022
Peptides, short sections of proteins made up of chains of amino acids, are an important area of new drug development due to their potential for increased specificity and fewer side effects. Their main drawback is the rapid degradation by the body’s own enzymes, which has led to the need to develop longer-lasting peptide alternatives. Azapeptides are one type of peptide alternative that has shown great potential as therapeutics, exemplified by the HIV drug, Atazanavir.
A new paper published in the journal Nature Communications by researchers at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research details proprietary reagents and methods that can selectively replace only those amino acids known to be targeted by enzymes with more stable versions to create azapeptides.
The paper, authored by Yousef Al-Abed, PhD, co-director of the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institutes, describes the proprietary building blocks and method used to conduct systematic and robust peptide editing, replacing targeted amino acids with aza-amino acids to form more stable and efficient azapeptides. The azapeptides created could expedite the novel therapies to treat many diseases and conditions, including metabolic disease, influenza, pulmonary arterial hypertension, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and irritable bowel diseases, among others.
The paper, titled “Thiocarbazate building blocks enable the construction of azapeptides for rapid development of therapeutic candidates,” provides multiple examples of azapeptide construction, screening, and selection using a known peptide inhibitor of inflammation and bradykinin.
“Peptides as drug candidates are easy to discover yet difficult to develop as final drugs because of their fast degradation in our body. A technology that circumvents these problems inherent to native peptides will change the future landscape of drug discovery. Our technology provides a platform of tools that enable minimal modification of any peptide at highly prone degradation sites, thereby increasing its life span in our body, allowing it more time to find its target and neutralize it.”
Through peptide editing, going from peptide to azapeptide, using methods that Dr. Al-Abed and his team detail in the new paper, scientists can create potential therapies that have enhanced characteristics compared to natural peptides, like longer stabilities in a more efficient manner. Dr. Al-Abed and his team have precisely engineered thiocarbazates (a novel functional group) in the proprietary process to achieve an almost universal and more efficient means to selectively replace amino acids in a peptide chain.
“Peptide drugs are a crucial resource for patients and the global pharmaceutical industry,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes and Karches Family Distinguished Chair in Medical Research. “Dr. Al-Abed and his team invented a fully automated chemical strategy using novel chemistry to make new peptide drugs which is an important new avenue for peptide drug discovery.”
About the Feinstein Institutes
The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State. Home to 50 research labs, 3,000 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health innovations and outcomes, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine.
VIEWS AND ANALYSIS
Altamira Therapeutics Ltd | December 01, 2022
Altamira Therapeutics Ltd. a company dedicated to developing therapeutics that address important unmet medical needs, today provided a business update and reported its first half 2022 financial results.
“We continue to make good progress with the transformation of Altamira into an RNA delivery technology company. We are optimistic of reaching an agreement to divest or partner our Bentrio nasal spray for key markets in North America and Europe by year end. Last month, we agreed to divest part or all of our inner ear therapeutics programs to a European family office. Following some delay and under slightly amended terms, we expect that transaction to close in December.
Thomas Meyer, Altamira Therapeutics’ founder, Chairman and CEO
“Heading towards 2023, we look forward to focusing exclusively on the many emerging opportunities in the fast-growing RNA therapeutics market. We are increasingly well positioned to advance our RNA delivery technology throughout 2023.”
As Altamira is going through the final stages of a major corporate transformation, management intends to hold its next investor call upon finalization of its partnering / divestiture projects. On that call, the Company will also provide its outlook for 2023.
RNA delivery platform update
Altamira continued to make solid progress with the development of its patented, peptide-based platform for RNA delivery to extrahepatic tissues. In recent months, the RNA team led by Chief Development Officer Covadonga Pañeda, Ph.D., and Chief Scientific Officer Samuel Wickline, MD, have advanced various projects, including selection and optimization of siRNA sequences, formulation, process development and manufacturing. Starting with project AM-401 for the treatment of KRAS-driven tumors, the Company added a second project, AM-411 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. AM-411 nanoparticles comprise siRNA targeting NF-kB a key checkpoint in RA inflammation.
The Company is developing both AM-401 and AM-411 with the objective of out-licensing the drug products at a later stage. They serve as a “showcase” for the application of Altamira’s RNA delivery technology; the Company’s strategy will be to out-license the technology to pharma and biotech companies for use with their own RNA molecules. In this context, Altamira has been intensifying its efforts to raise awareness about OligoPhore/SemaPhore within science and industry.
In recent months, members of Altamira’s leadership team gave oral presentations at multiple international conferences, highlighting the ability to deliver RNA molecules to extrahepatic tissues and achieve efficient and rapid endosomal release inside target cells. Concurrently, further data on RNA delivered with Altamira’s delivery technology has been published by independent research groups in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Altamira anticipates entering into its first partnering agreements in 2023.
Earlier today, Altamira reported that its licensee and distribution partner Nuance Pharma has launched Bentrio nasal spray in Hong Kong to help provide protection against airborne viruses as well as allergens. This will be the first step to distributing Bentrio in the other Nuance-licensed territories which is comprised of mainland China, Macau and South Korea.
As part of its strategy to focus exclusively on RNA delivery, Altamira has been in discussions with several well-established OTC consumer health companies for the partnering of Bentrio. Those discussions intensified following the 510(k) clearance of the product by the FDA and have advanced well, including due diligence by interested parties. The Company anticipates entering into a partnering transaction before year end. In the context of those partnering discussions, Altamira suspended preparations for launching the product in the US on its own as well as pausing major marketing initiatives in Europe. This restraint provides the prospective strategic partner for Bentrio with maximum flexibility to fit the product into its business plan.
Beginning in early October, the Bentrio nasal spray was relaunched in Europe for allergic rhinitis. Previously, the Company had ceased marketing the product for the indication of viral infection in the EU and Switzerland although Bentrio’s mode of action is the same regardless of whether it provides a barrier against airborne virus or allergen particles. This had been demonstrated in various relevant in vitro assays. However, certain countries and regions require specifically clinical performance data to clear Bentrio for this indication, in particular related to COVID-19. Such data are expected to become available through the COVAMID trial.
In September, Altamira announced that it had reached its extended enrollment target of 160 confirmed subjects in its COVAMID clinical investigation to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of its Bentrio nasal spray in patients with acute COVID-19. The read-out of top-line data remains on track for the current quarter. The Company plans to seek an expansion of its product label to also include viral infections in those countries requiring supportive clinical data.
In September, the Company also announced that its “NASAR” clinical trial in seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) resumed enrollment as the new pollen season started in Australia. The NASAR trial is expected to enroll a total of 100 patients suffering from SAR and is designed to compare the safety and efficacy of Bentrio against a (control) saline nasal spray. The primary endpoint will be the comparison of the reflective Total Nasal Symptom Score under treatment with Bentrio against control.
The NASAR trial was initiated in the fall of 2021. It was suspended in spring 2022 as the pollen season came to an end before the enrollment target could be met. Interim data from the trial were used in support of the 510(k) clearance of Bentrio by the US FDA. Unless an interim analysis performed upon reaching 50% of the enrollment target to check the validity of the statistical powering assumptions requires a change to the target size of 100 patients, the Company expects to complete enrollment into the NASAR trial by year-end or in early 2023 with a read-out of top-line data in late 1Q-23.
BUSINESS INSIGHTS, PHARMACY MARKET
insitro | December 02, 2022
insitro, a machine learning-powered drug discovery and development company announced that Philip Tagari has been appointed as chief scientific officer. Tagari joins insitro following a 24-year career at Amgen, where he has led the organization's research platforms for over a decade as vice president, research - therapeutic discovery.
“I am deeply excited to partner with Philip on insitro’s journey to build a transformative biology platform for the efficient discovery and development of effective medicines for patients in need. Philip brings unparalleled experience in drug development, including building and utilizing cutting-edge platforms, profound scientific expertise across therapeutic areas and modalities, and most importantly, the humility and courage to transcend the drug discovery status quo and do things differently.”
Daphne Koller, Ph.D., founder and CEO of insitro
Tagari joins a cross-functional team of experts in biology and technology at insitro, part of a uniquely collaborative culture that spans the boundaries of both fields. “Philip’s inspiring track record of fusing science and technology to build innovative platforms and leading therapeutic programs from bench to approval will guide us in the next step of insitro’s journey, as we deploy our expertise to identify exciting new targets and design therapeutic molecules,” said Koller.
“insitro is completely redefining our understanding of disease biology and developing novel therapeutic strategies for a variety of grievous illnesses. Using machine learning on genetics and multi-modal phenotypic data at scale from human cohorts and cellular systems, their cutting edge laboratories are rapidly generating differentiated approaches to currently intractable unmet needs,” Tagari said. “I’m thrilled to partner with Daphne and insitro’s world-class scientists and technologists in achieving a patient-driven vision brought to life in a different kind of drug company.”
Tagari joins insitro in early 2023 from Amgen, where he has held a variety of roles since 1998, and served as vice president, research - therapeutic discovery, since 2012. During his time at Amgen, Tagari built and led a global organization of over 600 scientists that delivered numerous experimental and marketed therapies in neurology, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and oncology. Throughout his career, which includes a decade at Merck and research positions at McGill University and Oxford University, Tagari made significant contributions toward multiple first-in-class, disease-modifying, life-changing therapies including Lumakras, Repatha, Singulair, Aimovig, Evenity, Tarlatamab, Acapatamab, Efavaleukin alfa, and AMG 133.
With more than 30 years of research experience, he brings expertise across neurobiology, metabolic disease, hematology/oncology, immunology and inflammation, cell and molecular biology, antibody discovery and biologics engineering, medicinal, peptide and oligonucleotide chemistry, analytical chemistry and biochemistry, structural biology, pharmacokinetics, safety pharmacology, laboratory automation and information technologies. Tagari has published or contributed to more than 70 peer-reviewed publications.
“I had the privilege of working with Philip for more than 15 years, first at Merck, and thereafter at Amgen, and can say unequivocally that he ranks among the most accomplished, and most innovative, scientific leaders in the industry,” said Roger M. Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., currently president, chief executive officer, and chairman of Eikon Therapeutics, Inc., (formerly EVP R&D both at Amgen and at Merck), and is a member of insitro’s Board of Directors. “With Philip as chief scientific officer and partner to Daphne, insitro will be well positioned to ensure that insights from its machine learning-enabled discovery platform contribute to the development of important new medicines that will make a meaningful difference for patients.”
insitro is a data-driven drug discovery and development company using machine learning and data at scale to transform the way that drugs are discovered and developed for patients. insitro is developing predictive machine learning models to discover underlying biologic states based on human cohort data and in-house generated cellular data at scale. These predictive models are being brought to bear on key bottlenecks in pharmaceutical R&D to advance novel targets and patient biomarkers, design therapeutics and inform clinical strategy. insitro is advancing a wholly owned and partnered pipeline of biologic insights and molecules in metabolism and neuroscience. Since formation in mid 2018, insitro has raised over $700 million from top tech, biotech, and crossover investors, and from collaborations with pharmaceutical partners.
PHARMACY MARKET, PHARMA TECH
Molecular Targeting Technologies, Inc | December 09, 2022
Molecular Targeting Technologies, Inc. a clinical stage radiopharmaceutical therapy company focused on therapies for rare diseases, announced today the allowance of an Investigational New Drug application by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is now waiting for Institutional Review Board approval. Once approved by IRB, it will enable a Phase I/II clinical study of the Safety, Dosimetry and Efficacy of EBTATE in adult patients with metastatic, radioactive iodine non-responsive Hürthle cell thyroid cancer.”
EBTATE is a new generation of peptide receptor radiotherapeutic drug that has demonstrated potential clinical superiority over standard of care. It selectively binds to somatostatin receptor 2 on neuroendocrine and other tumors, which are then killed by the radionuclide. EvaThera platform products were designed to bind to serum albumin, due to the Evans blue moiety, extending in vivo residence time, enabling lower, less frequent dosing of the radiopharmaceutical and reducing risk of renal injury vs. the current standard of care.
Dr. Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, MD, Ph.D, MHSc, acting section chief of Thyroid Tumors and Functional Thyroid Disorders in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and study author commented: “Hürthle cell thyroid cancer, which currently lacks effective treatment options, is characterized by a particularly high expression of SSTR2*. With this phase I/II clinical trial, we hope to implement individualized dosimetry-based dosing for each patient with Hürthle cell thyroid cancer that spread outside of the thyroid gland and analyze how much of an active agent is being accumulated in the tumor tissue to establish a threshold associated with the best efficacy and safety.”
“The clearance of our IND is an important milestone for MTTI. Having solidified our clinical trial preparedness and manufacturing readiness, we are well-positioned to advance EBTATE to target Hürthle cell thyroid cancer.”
Dr. Chris Pak, President & CEO of MTTI
About Molecular Targeting Technologies, Inc. (MTTI)
Molecular Targeting Technologies, Inc., is a privately held, rapidly growing, well financed, clinical-stage biotech company developing next-generation targeted radiotherapeutics and diagnostics for rare cancers. Evathera platform technology product has shown application for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cancer patients overexpressing integrin. MTTI is committed to building value by acquiring and translating innovative imaging, radiopharmaceutical and theranostics assets to improve human health, reduce healthcare costs and reward stakeholders. MTTI expects to be orchestrating multiple clinical trials in 2023.
The content in this release is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views or imply endorsement of the National Institutes of Health.