New study targets Achilles' heel of pancreatic cancer, with promising results

medicalxpress | April 17, 2019

New study targets Achilles' heel of pancreatic cancer, with promising results
Advanced pancreatic cancer is often symptomless, leading to late diagnosis only after metastases have spread throughout the body. Additionally, tumor cells are encased in a "protective shield," a microenvironment conferring resistance to many cancer treatment drugs. Now, Salk Institute researchers, along with an international team of collaborators, have uncovered the role of a signaling protein that may be the Achilles' heel of pancreatic cancer. The findings, published in Nature on April 17, 2019, show that pancreatic stellate cells—resident cells typically dormant in normal tissue—become activated and secrete proteins to form a shell around the tumorin an attempt to wall off and contain it. The activated stellate cells also secrete a signaling protein called LIF, which conveys stimulatory signals to tumor cells to drive pancreatic cancer development and progression. Results also suggest LIF may be a useful biomarker to help diagnose pancreatic cancer more quickly and efficiently. "There haven't been very many advances in pancreatic cancer therapy because it's a difficult cancer to diagnose and treat," says Salk American Cancer Society Professor Tony Hunter. "Understanding this communication network between the cancer cells and stellate cells may enable us to develop more effective therapies, along with tools for earlier diagnosis."

Spotlight

The pharmaceutical industry is not short of challenges patent cliffs, regulatory scrutiny, and R&D productivity, as well as a complex supply chain. Pharmaceutical products see several changes of hands from the manufacturers to distributors to dispensers and, finally, the patients allowing easy entry of counterfeit drugs and drug diversions. According to estimates by the WHO, nearly $40 billion is lost each year to counterfeit products.


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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

Treatment to Expand Global Library of Medicine with Dermatologic Diseases

Treatment.com International Inc. | January 05, 2022

Treatment.com International Inc. a healthcare AI technology company, has entered into a research project agreement with the University of Minnesota to add more than 220 dermatologic diseases to their proprietary, responsive AI engine known as the Global Library of Medicine (GLM). The addition of these diagnoses will bring another level of accuracy and specificity to the GLM, enhancing soon-to-be-released products such as the Treatment Mobile app, which is set for release this month. Kevin A. Peterson, MD, MPH, FRCS(Ed), FAAFP and Chief Medical Officer of Treatment, says, “Engaging in research with the University of Minnesota Dermatology department brings extensive academic medical expertise that enhances our ability to provide richly detailed descriptions of dermatologic concerns. The rich experience of the University of Minnesota Medical School will help the GLM provide more accurate descriptions of complex presentations of skin diseases. Combining our advanced AI infrastructure with the rich clinical and research expertise of the Medical School will substantially enhance our AI platform’s ability to provide better access to high quality information and directly supports the mission of the GLM to enhance health outcomes for individuals around the world.” “We are proud that the University of Minnesota is participating with us on this latest research project, which is in addition to other mutually beneficial agreements we’ve entered into with the University. The Global Library of Medicine is one way we are realizing Treatment’s plan to provide the most accurate and reliable data about health concerns, made available to clinicians, organizations, and patients alike.” John Fraser, Treatment’s CEO The Global Library of Medicine is the foundation of Treatment’s Clinical solutions, which offer unique ways to bring healthcare into the digital age by providing better access to up-to-the-minute healthcare information and promoting better health outcomes around the world. Treatment Mobile and the intelligent digital assistant will be released in select North American clinics in 2022. About Treatment.com Treatment.com is a disruptive healthcare technology company that is harnessing the power of AI to help global citizens improve their health through personalized recommendations and insights. Based in Vancouver with a US subsidiary, the company spent the last five years working with a team of world-class doctors, engineers, mathematicians, and AI specialists to develop a complex AI engine that leverages the most robust, personalized data to generate highly predictive and accurate insights. Treatment.com is the parent company of Treatment Mobile, and an intelligent digital health assistant which will empower people to take control of their health through an innovative mobile app, powered by Treatment’s exclusive AI engine.

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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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RESEARCH

DisperSol Technologies Announces Collaboration with Ajax Therapeutics to Develop Enhanced KinetiSol Drug Formulations

DisperSol Technologies | December 18, 2021

DisperSol Technologies LLC announced that it is has entered into a research collaboration with Ajax Therapeutics, Inc. to apply its KinetiSol technology to enhance the bioavailability of an Ajax drug candidate in development for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. “Ajax is taking an innovative approach to developing a pipeline of selectively targeted small molecules and we look forward to applying our proprietary KinetiSol technology to help enhance the bioavailability of one of these promising drug candidates. This collaboration is another example of our partnering strategy with our KinetiSol technology platform to help improve the bioavailability of next generation targeted therapies to provide new treatments for patients in need.” Dr. Edward Rudnic, CEO of DisperSol Technologies About DisperSol Technologies DisperSol is a clinical-stage drug development company focused on developing new treatments for patients utilizing its proprietary KinetiSol® technology platform. KinetiSol has proven capable of creating novel therapeutics from poorly bioavailable drugs to deliver unique clinical benefits to patients. The platform enables a drug development path forward to patients when other options fail to make a difference. DisperSol’s active programs include, DST-0509 about to enter Phase 3 for iron overload disorder and DST-2970 in Phase 2 for refractory metastatic prostate cancer. Additional earlier-stage programs include DST-5407 for non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. About Ajax Therapeutics Ajax Therapeutics, Inc. is pursuing uniquely selective approaches to develop novel therapies targeting key cytokine signaling pathways that drive hematologic malignancies. By combining the deep cancer and structural biology insights of our founding scientists with the industry’s most advanced computational drug discovery and protein structure platforms from our founding partner, Schrödinger, Inc., we aim to discover and develop more precisely designed therapies to address significant unmet needs for patients with hematologic malignancies.

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RESEARCH

Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals and Selexis SA Will Advance Hemogenyx’s Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) CDX Bispecific Antibody to Human Trials

Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals plc | January 13, 2022

Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals plc the biopharmaceutical group developing new therapies and treatments for blood diseases, and Selexis SA, a JSR Life Sciences company, have signed a service agreement to develop the cell line for Hemogenyx’s CDX bispecific antibody for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Under the agreement, Hemogenyx will leverage Selexis’ proprietary SUREtechnology Platform™, a suite of cell line development tools and technologies that significantly reduces the time, effort, and costs associated with developing high-performance mammalian cell lines. The CDX bispecific is made using the Hemogenyx’s proprietary humanised monoclonal antibody against a target on the surface of AML cells. CDX was co-developed by Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly and Company (“Lilly”). This cutting-edge application of immune therapy offers a potentially more benign and effective form of treatment that, if successful, could have a significant impact on treatment and survival rates for AML. CDX is planned to be the Company’s second therapeutic candidate to enter clinical trials. Following the completion of the co-development phase, Lilly granted the Company an exclusive worldwide license to certain intellectual property developed by Lilly related to the CDX bispecific antibody for all uses, including the treatment of AML and other blood cancers. “We are delighted to partner with Selexis, and access its proprietary protein expression tools and technologies, IP and know-how. The partnership is key to advancing our CDX programme into clinical trials and accelerating the timeline to deliver this innovative therapy to patients in need of a more benign and effective treatment for AML.” Dr. Vladislav Sandler, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals Mr. Dirk Lange, CEO of Selexis, added, “There’s an urgent need for effective treatments for AML, and we at Selexis are pleased to apply our technologies to help Hemogenyx advance the CDX bispecific antibody to the clinic. We’ve built a reputation for delivering cell lines rapidly and cost-effectively, without compromising safety. This is an exciting milestone for Hemogenyx and we welcome the opportunity to join the company on its journey toward delivering a promising and effective therapy for patients with AML.” Selexis’ modular SUREtechnology Platform™ facilitates the rapid, stable, and cost-effective production of recombinant proteins and vaccines, providing seamless integration of the development continuum from discovery to commercialization. About Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals plc Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals is a publicly traded company headquartered in London, with its US operating subsidiaries, Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals LLC and Immugenyx LLC, located in New York City at its state-of-the-art research facility. The Company is a pre-clinical stage biopharmaceutical group developing new medicines and treatments to treat blood and autoimmune disease and to bring the curative power of bone marrow transplantation to a greater number of patients suffering from otherwise incurable life-threatening diseases. Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals is developing several distinct and complementary product candidates, as well as a platform technology that it uses as an engine for novel product development. For more than 50 years, bone marrow transplantation has been used to save the lives of patients suffering from blood diseases. The risks of toxicity and death that are associated with bone marrow transplantation, however, have meant that the procedure is restricted to use only as a last resort. The Company’s technology has the potential to enable many more patients suffering from devastating blood diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as severe autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, aplastic anemia and systemic lupus erythematosus (Lupus), to benefit from bone marrow transplantation. About Selexis SA Selexis SA, a JSR Life Sciences company, is the global leader in cell line development with best-in-class modular technology and highly specialized solutions that enable the life sciences industry to rapidly discover, develop and commercialize innovative medicines and vaccines. Our global partners are utilizing Selexis technologies to advance more than 146 drug candidates in preclinical and clinical development and the manufacture of eight commercial products. As part of a comprehensive drug development process, the Company’s technologies shorten development timelines and reduce manufacturing risks.

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Spotlight

The pharmaceutical industry is not short of challenges patent cliffs, regulatory scrutiny, and R&D productivity, as well as a complex supply chain. Pharmaceutical products see several changes of hands from the manufacturers to distributors to dispensers and, finally, the patients allowing easy entry of counterfeit drugs and drug diversions. According to estimates by the WHO, nearly $40 billion is lost each year to counterfeit products.

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