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

medicalxpress | April 17, 2019

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

For many people, pollen is an unwelcome sign of summer. The powdery substance, which is released by plants for reproduction, has ruined many a picnic and walk in the park. But believe it or not, pollen could actually serve a purpose beyond making new plants and triggering sneezes. In ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, researchers report a new method for cleaning out the insides of pollen grains so that the non-allergenic shells can be used to carry medicines or vaccines into the human body.


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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

NextRNA Launches with $56 Million in Funding to Bring Transformative Non-Coding RNA-Directed Medicines to Patients

NextRNA Therapeutics | March 02, 2022

NextRNA Therapeutics, a biotechnology company unlocking the potential of non-coding RNAs to develop transformative therapeutics, announces its launch with $9.3 million in seed financing and a $46.8 million Series A led by Cobro Ventures and Lightchain Capital, with additional participation from Circle Alternative Investments, Evans Capital, Jefferies, Rivas Capital, and Willett Advisors. Proceeds will be used by the company to augment its target and drug discovery engine, expand its pipeline, and advance lead programs. The vast majority of DNA is copied into RNAs that do not make proteins. These RNA molecules, called “non-coding RNAs,” play essential roles in cells by interacting with and modulating the activities of proteins. These interactions can drive pathogenic processes in multiple disease areas, including oncology, immunology, and neurology. Non-coding RNAs, in particular long non-coding RNAs, and their interacting proteins therefore represent a vast and untapped class of novel therapeutic targets. “NextRNA is uniquely positioned to be the leader in non-coding RNA-directed medicines. We have established a robust target and drug discovery engine to systematically identify disease-relevant long non-coding RNAs and their interacting proteins. By developing selective small molecules to drug these interactions, we plan to translate discoveries of non-coding RNA targets into a robust pipeline of transformative therapies across multiple disease areas.” Dominique Verhelle, Ph.D., MBA, co-founder, chief scientific officer, and interim chief executive officer, NextRNA NextRNA was established based on pioneering work by Carl Novina, M.D., Ph.D., at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “By understanding the interactions between long non-coding RNAs and specific proteins, we can decode the function of long non-coding RNAs and apply it to create medicines,” said Dr. Novina, co-founder of NextRNA. Since its founding in January of 2021, NextRNA has established its initial team, built out the target and drug discovery engine, and advanced two small molecule programs in oncology and immunology. “NextRNA is at the forefront of innovation in the field of non-coding RNAs,” said Todd Kaloudis, Managing Director at Cobro Ventures. “There is growing excitement around the potential of non-coding RNA-directed medicines, and we are pleased to have such an experienced team focused on NextRNA’s vision of bringing transformative therapies to patients.” About NextRNA Therapeutics NextRNA is a biotechnology company with a mission to translate pioneering science into transformative therapeutics for the benefit of patients. The company is leveraging its proprietary technology platform to systematically identify disease-relevant non-coding RNAs and their interacting proteins, and to develop selective small molecules to drug these interactions. NextRNA investors include Cobro Ventures, Lightchain Capital, Circle Alternative Investments, Evans Capital, Jefferies, Rivas Capital, and Willett Advisors.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

TherapeuticsMD and EW Healthcare Partners Announce Definitive Agreement for EW Healthcare Partners to acquire TherapeuticsMD

TherapeuticsMD, Inc | June 01, 2022

TherapeuticsMD, Inc. an innovative, leading women’s healthcare company, announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of EW Healthcare Partners, a private equity firm dedicated to making investments in rapidly growing healthcare companies. Under the terms of the transaction, which has been unanimously approved by TXMD’s board of directors, EW Healthcare Partners will commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of TXMD common stock for $10.00 per share in an all-cash transaction, followed immediately by a merger. The purchase price represents a premium of 367.3% over TherapeuticsMD’s closing share price on May 27, 2022. “We are very pleased to enter into this agreement with EW Healthcare Partners. Together, we will continue empowering women of all ages through a therapeutic focus in family planning, reproductive health, and menopause management. We have a deep appreciation for EW Healthcare Partners’s depth of expertise and track record and know they will bring an incredible value of knowledge and strategic guidance.” Hugh O’Dowd, Chief Executive Officer of TherapeuticsMD EW Healthcare Partners is one of the largest and oldest private healthcare investment firms with over $4B of capital raised since its inception. EW Healthcare Partners has made investments in over 150 rapidly growing healthcare companies in the pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostics, and technology-enabled services sectors in the United States and in Europe. “We are pleased to welcome TherapeuticsMD to the EW Healthcare Partners portfolio and are deeply committed to the Company's mission of advancing women’s health. EW Healthcare Partners has already made a significant investment in women’s health through its acquisition of Majorelle. TherapeuticsMD represents a unique opportunity for Majorelle to enter the US market and is a perfect fit with our ambitious plans to create a fast-growing, premier trans-Atlantic women’s health platform. We bring an extensive network and capital to fund the further growth of the combined company,” said Evis Hursever, Managing Director at EW Healthcare Partners. “We look forward to working together with the company’s management team to enhance the patient experience, improve operational efficiency and create one of a very few trans-Atlantic specialty pharma companies dedicated to women’s health,” said Olivier Bohuon, Senior Adviser with EW Healthcare Partners and Chairman of Majorelle. About TherapeuticsMD, Inc. TherapeuticsMD, Inc. is an innovative, leading healthcare company, focused on developing and commercializing novel products exclusively for women. TherapeuticsMD’s products are designed to address the unique changes and challenges women experience through the various stages of their lives with a therapeutic focus in family planning, reproductive health, and menopause management. TherapeuticsMD is committed to advancing the health of women and championing awareness of their healthcare issues. About EW Healthcare Partners (“EW”) With over $4 billion raised since inception, EW Healthcare Partners is one of the largest and oldest private healthcare investment firms and seeks to make growth equity investments in fast growing commercial-stage healthcare companies in the pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostics, and technology-enabled services sectors in the United States and in Europe. Since its founding in 1985, EW Healthcare Partners has maintained its singular commitment to the healthcare industry and has been a long-term investor in over 150 healthcare companies, ranging across sectors, stages and geographies. The team is comprised of over 20 senior investment professionals with offices in New York, Houston and London.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

Labcorp Completes Acquisition of Personal Genome Diagnostics

Labcorp | February 21, 2022

Labcorp a leading global life sciences company, announced that it has closed its acquisition of Personal Genome Diagnostics Inc. (PGDx), a leader in cancer genomics with a portfolio of comprehensive liquid biopsy and tissue-based products. The addition of PGDx and its technology complements and accelerates Labcorp’s existing liquid biopsy capabilities and expands Labcorp’s leading oncology portfolio of next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based genomic profiling capabilities, positioning Labcorp at the forefront of driving better patient outcomes in oncology. About Labcorp Labcorp is a leading global life sciences company that provides vital information to help doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and patients make clear and confident decisions. Through our unparalleled diagnostics and drug development capabilities, we provide insights and accelerate innovations to improve health and improve lives. With over 75,000 employees, we serve clients in more than 100 countries. Labcorp (NYSE: LH) reported revenue of $16.1 billion in FY2021.

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VIEWS AND ANALYSIS

CHMP Recommends Approval of Dupixent® (dupilumab) for Children Aged 6 to 11 Years with Severe Asthma with Type 2 Inflammation

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc | January 31, 2022

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Sanofi today announced that the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use has adopted a positive opinion, recommending to extend the approval of Dupixent® (dupilumab) in the European Union (EU) to include add-on maintenance treatment for children aged 6 to 11 years with severe asthma with type 2 inflammation characterized by raised blood eosinophils and/or raised fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) who are inadequately controlled on two maintenance therapies. The European Commission is expected to announce a final decision on the Dupixent application in the coming months. The CHMP positive opinion is supported by Phase 3 data recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that Dupixent added to standard of care significantly reduced the rate of severe asthma attacks and rapidly improved lung function within two weeks, with sustained improvement up to 52 weeks, in children with uncontrolled moderate-to-severe asthma. The safety results from the trial were generally consistent with the known safety profile of Dupixent in patients aged 12 years and older with uncontrolled moderate-to-severe asthma. Adverse events more commonly observed with Dupixent compared to placebo included injection site reactions, viral upper respiratory tract infections and eosinophilia. Helminth infections were also more commonly observed with Dupixent compared to placebo in patients aged 6 to 11 years. Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. Up to 85% of children with asthma may have type 2 inflammation and are more likely to have higher disease burden. Despite treatment with current standard-of-care inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and bronchodilators, these children may continue to experience serious symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Severe asthma may impact children's developing airways and cause potentially life-threatening exacerbations. Children with severe asthma also may require the use of multiple courses of systemic corticosteroids that carry significant risks. Uncontrolled severe asthma can interfere with day-to-day activities like sleeping, attending school and playing sports. On October 20, 2021, Dupixent was approved by the FDA as an add-on maintenance treatment for patients aged 6 to 11 years with moderate-to-severe asthma characterized by an eosinophilic phenotype or with oral corticosteroid-dependent asthma. The use of Dupixent in children aged 6 to 11 years with uncontrolled severe asthma is investigational in the EU and is not yet approved. About Dupixent Dupixent, which was invented using Regeneron's proprietary VelocImmune® technology, is a fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits the signaling of the interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-13 (IL-13) pathways and is not an immunosuppressant. IL-4 and IL-13 are key and central drivers of the type 2 inflammation that plays a major role in atopic dermatitis, asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (CRSwNP). About Regeneron Regeneron is a leading biotechnology company that invents life-transforming medicines for people with serious diseases. Founded and led for over 30 years by physician-scientists, our unique ability to repeatedly and consistently translate science into medicine has led to nine FDA-approved treatments and numerous product candidates in development, almost all of which were homegrown in our laboratories. Our medicines and pipeline are designed to help patients with eye diseases, allergic and inflammatory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, pain, hematologic conditions, infectious diseases and rare diseases. Regeneron is accelerating and improving the traditional drug development process through our proprietary VelociSuite technologies, such as VelocImmune, which uses unique genetically humanized mice to produce optimized fully human antibodies and bispecific antibodies, and through ambitious research initiatives such as the Regeneron Genetics Center, which is conducting one of the largest genetics sequencing efforts in the world. About Sanofi Sanofi is dedicated to supporting people through their health challenges. We are a global biopharmaceutical company focused on human health. We prevent illness with vaccines, provide innovative treatments to fight pain and ease suffering. We stand by the few who suffer from rare diseases and the millions with long-term chronic conditions. With more than 100,000 people in 100 countries, Sanofi is transforming scientific innovation into healthcare solutions around the globe.

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Spotlight

For many people, pollen is an unwelcome sign of summer. The powdery substance, which is released by plants for reproduction, has ruined many a picnic and walk in the park. But believe it or not, pollen could actually serve a purpose beyond making new plants and triggering sneezes. In ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, researchers report a new method for cleaning out the insides of pollen grains so that the non-allergenic shells can be used to carry medicines or vaccines into the human body.

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