Using stem cells to combat osteoarthritis

medicalnewstoday | April 23, 2019

In a recent preliminary study, scientists used stem cells to ease osteoarthritis. Although the trial was small-scale, the results are promising and will pave the way for larger studies. Osteoarthritis of the knee (KOA) occurs when the cartilage — the joint's natural cushioning system — breaks down in the knee. Without this buffer, bones can come into contact with each other, causing pain, stiffness, and a loss of flexibility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), osteoarthritis affects an estimated 30 million people in the United States. Osteoarthritis is predominantly a disease of older age, affecting more than one in 10 people over the age of 60 years. As the population of the U.S. is slowly aging, the number of people with osteoarthritis is likely to increase steadily. Although physical interventions and medications can ease symptoms, there is currently no cure because it is not possible to regrow cartilage. Once KOA has progressed to the end stages, the only option is surgical replacement of the joint.

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PHARMA TECH

Three iA Employees Honored with Top Women in Health Awards

iA | November 18, 2022

iA, a provider of software-enabled pharmacy fulfillment and automation solutions, celebrated three of its employees being recognized at Drug Store News’ Fourth Annual Top Women in Health, Wellness & Beauty Awards held in Chicago, Illinois. Rachael Clark, Vice President of Commercial Sales, received a Rising Star award. As Vice President of Commercial Sales, Rachael works with large-scale retail chain grocery stores, mainstream pharmacies, and digital pharmacies, as well as independent mom-and-pop operations. Rachael is responsible for a team of account executives that work to promote iA’s technology across North America and globally by developing long-term strategies, while also organizing and maintaining sales operations. Bobbi Jamriska, Senior Vice President, Product Management, received an award for Business Excellence. Bobbi leads the Product Management team at iA that is responsible for the iA portfolio of solutions, where she manages the strategy, development, and go-to-market planning. She has been a pharmacy tech for 12 years, and has led global product management initiatives as well as new product development experiences. Stacey Weber, Senior Director of Customer Operations, received an award for Business Excellence. Stacey oversees the customer support division, where she manages a team of 35 remote technicians who assist customers in using iA’s Rx fulfillment solutions, which include automated prescription filling robots and innovative warehouse management systems. In addition to ensuring customers receive timely and helpful assistance, she also oversees standardization and process improvement for iA’s call center and for the customers that use iA solutions. “We are incredibly proud of our team members. Rachael, Bobbi, and Stacey all represent the best of iA, and we are very lucky to be able to work with them every day.” Tom Utech, President and Chief Operating Officer About iA iA is a leading-edge provider of software-enabled pharmacy fulfillment solutions. With over 30 years in pharmacy fulfillment, iA has invented and developed a suite of software-driven pharmacy automation solutions. From NEXiA software to automated modular hardware and sophisticated counting and collation devices, iA pharmacy automation solutions and technology empower pharmacists. iA can run the prescription fulfillment process from end to end, helping pharmacies manage fulfillment and inventory to help lower costs, improve efficiency and provide comprehensive Rx tracking and real-time support.

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PHARMACY MARKET

FogPharma Announces $178 Million Series D Financing to Advance Pipeline of First-in-Class Helicon Polypeptide Therapeutics

FogPharma | November 28, 2022

FogPharma®, a biopharmaceutical company pioneering a new class of precision medicines that could ultimately prove applicable to the vast majority of therapeutic targets, including those previously considered “undruggable,” announced a $178 Million Series D financing. The financing round includes new investors ARCH Venture Partners, Milky Way Investments and Fidelity Management & Research Company and existing investors VenBio Partners, Deerfield Management, GV, Cormorant Asset Management, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Invus, Farallon Capital Management, HBM Healthcare Investments, Casdin Capital, and PagsGroup, also participated. Proceeds from the Series D financing will be used to advance and accelerate FogPharma’s growing pipeline of hyperstabilized α-helical (Helicon™) polypeptide therapeutics, a proprietary new class of drugs designed to overcome the limitations of today’s precision medicines with broad applicability to the vast majority of disease targets and therapeutic areas. FogPharma’s lead Helicon polypeptide development candidate, FOG-001, a first-and-only-in-class direct TCF-blocking β-catenin inhibitor with potential applicability to significant cancer patient populations, is expected to enter clinical development in mid-2023. In addition, FogPharma is advancing other first-in-class programs against important, biologically validated cancer targets that have remained elusive to other approaches including TEAD, NRAS, Pan-KRAS, ERG and Cyclin E1. “FogPharma continues to make rapid progress on our moonshot mission to achieve universal druggability – a world where no targets are off-limits to medicine. We believe that Helicon polypeptides, a compelling new therapeutic modality, represent the future of precision medicine. We are thrilled by the support of our investors and will continue to build our platform capabilities, product pipeline which aims to address a significant percentage of cancer patient populations, and our phenomenal team across all levels as we aim to create one of the most impactful new classes of drugs in history.” Gregory Verdine, Ph.D., founder, chairman and chief executive officer of FogPharma In connection with the Series D Financing, Rick Klausner, M.D., has been appointed to FogPharma’s board of directors. In addition, Dr. Verdine has been appointed as chairman of the board. “The team at FogPharma is building an unprecedented new therapeutic modality and robust pipeline with the potential to make a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer patients,” said Dr. Klausner. “I am excited to join the board of directors and be part of something special particularly at this important time as FogPharma continues to impressively scale its science, team, operations and infrastructure, with the goal of advancing its first Helicon polypeptide therapeutic into the clinic.” Dr. Klausner is currently the founder and chief scientist of Altos Labs and founder and chairman of Lyell Immunopharma. Dr. Klausner was founder and director of Juno Therapeutics and founder and director of GRAIL. He is also the chairman of Sonoma Biotherapeutics and co-founder and chairman of Lifemine Therapeutics. Previously, Dr. Klausner served as senior vice president, chief medical officer and chief opportunity officer of Illumina Corporation and as executive director for global health for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Klausner was appointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush as the eleventh director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute between 1995 and 2001. Dr. Klausner served as chief of the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as well as a past president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation. He has served in senior advisory roles to the U.S., Norwegian, Qatari and Indian governments. About FogPharma’s Universal Druggability Platform and Helicon™ Polypeptide Therapeutics Existing drug classes are limited in both reach and applicability, with more than 80% of known human protein disease targets considered “undruggable” because they are beyond the reach of both antibodies and small molecules. FogPharma’s Helicon peptide drug discovery engine integrates directed evolution, proprietary α-helix conformational hyperstabilization chemistry, highly multiplexed drug optimization technology, artificial intelligence including deep learning and machine learning, structure-based drug discovery, cancer genomics and biology, and multiscale manufacturing to rapidly discover Helicon polypeptide therapeutics. This novel therapeutic modality combines the targeting strength and specificity of antibodies with the broad tissue distribution, intracellular target engagement and oral dosing optionality of small molecules to address the limitations of today’s precision medicines and reach the most difficult targets – achieving universal druggability. About FOG-001 FogPharma’s lead Helicon polypeptide development candidate, FOG-001, a first-and-only-in-class direct TCF-blocking β-catenin inhibitor. Dysregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway has been shown to occur in at least 20% of all human cancers. In the U.S. alone, FOG-001 has the potential to become a new treatment option for >1 million patients suffering from a broad range of intractable cancers. In biochemical and cellular studies, FOG-001 has been shown to potently, precisely and selectively disrupt the interaction of β-catenin with its obligate downstream transcription factor, TCF. Preclinical studies have demonstrated the ability of FOG-001 to cause tumor growth inhibition and regression by disrupting β-catenin-dependent signaling. FOG-001 is the inaugural member of FogPharma’s TCF-Catenix family of direct-acting β-catenin antagonists and combines key features that distinguish it from previously reported Wnt/β-catenin pathway modulators: FOG-001 acts inside the cell, where it directly binds the key oncogenic driver β-catenin; and FOG-001 blocks TCF-β-catenin engagement at the most downstream node in the canonical Wnt pathway, thus abrogating the signal transmission mechanism by which most, if not all, known Wnt pathway mutations are believed to drive oncogenesis. About FogPharma FogPharma is a biopharmaceutical company pioneering the discovery and development of Helicon™ polypeptides. Through this novel therapeutic modality, FogPharma aims to address the limitations of existing drug classes and achieve universal druggability – a world where no targets are off-limits to new medicines. Spun out of Harvard University by pioneering academic scientist and successful biotech company builder Dr. Gregory Verdine, FogPharma is advancing a broad pipeline of Helicon polypeptide therapeutics against important and biologically validated cancer targets that have remained elusive to other approaches, with the goal of providing new targeted treatment options for significant cancer patient populations. FogPharma is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and has raised more than $360 million to date from leading life sciences investors.

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PHARMACY MARKET

A novel azapeptide editing method provides potential for new drug development, Feinstein Institutes research shows

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.” Dr. Al-Abed 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.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS, PHARMA TECH

Aequus Announces Health Canada Notice of Compliance (NOC) for Zimed® Preservative Free (Bimatoprost 0.03%)

Aequus Pharmaceuticals | December 21, 2022

Aequus Pharmaceuticals Inc. is pleased to announce that Health Canada has approved Zimed® PF for the reduction of elevated intraocular pressure in patients with open-angled glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Affecting more than 700,000 people in Canada, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in North America. Zimed® PF is the first prostaglandin analog that is preservative free and offered in an easy-to-use multi-dose bottle in Canada. PGAs are commonly prescribed first-line to reduce IOP. The vast majority of medications currently available include preservatives such as Benzalkonium Chloride. Chronic exposure to BAK has been found to increase the likelihood of experiencing Ocular Surface Disease and reduce patient adherence. “We have heard from the eyecare professionals that there is a need for preservative-free alternatives. The PGA market continues to grow year-over-year and we are excited to provide a new option for Canadian health care providers and their patients.” Grant Larsen, CCO of Aequus Pharma Zimed PF is contained in a unique multi-dose bottle that leverages a unidirectional valve and air filter technology to eliminates the need for a preservatives. In addition, this packaging format significantly reduces the amount of plastic used compared to single-use alternatives. “Medicom is excited by this news and looks forward to launching Zimed® PF in the Canadian market with Aequus,” says Simon Martin, CEO of Medicom. “Globally we have seen the strong uptake for Zimed® PF and pleased it will soon be available to Canadian patients.” Doug Janzen, CEO of Aequus Pharma said, “We want to thank Medicom for their support through the approval process with Health Canada. This is our third product we’ve brought to Canada in this partnership. We look forward to launching Zimed® PF in 2023 and providing Canadians with more treatment options.” ABOUT AEQUUS PHARMACEUTICALS INC. Aequus Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing high quality, differentiated products. Aequus has grown its sales and marketing efforts to include several commercial products in ophthalmology and optometry. Aequus plans to build on its Canadian commercial platform through the launch of additional products that are either created internally or brought in through an acquisition or license, remaining focused on highly specialized therapeutic areas.

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