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News Briefs: Jan 14, 2009


Mt. Sinai Spinout Vivaldi Biosciences Nets $23M in Startup Financing

Influenza vaccine developer Vivaldi Biosciences, a spinout of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said this week that it has received commitments for $23 million in Series A financing, of which $18.85 million has been funded.

Bay City Capital and NGN Capital co-led the financing, with participation by the New York City Investment Fund and Alexandria Real Estate Equities. The remaining commitments are to be funded subject to achievement of certain milestones, Vivaldi said.

Vivaldi is developing vaccines with the potential for increased effectiveness in preventing seasonal and pandemic flu. The vaccines are based on research by Mount Sinai's Peter Palese and Adolfo Garcia-Sastre.

Elliott Kieff of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, will chair the company's scientific advisory board.

Vivaldi said that it intends to use the proceeds from its Series A financing to establish cell-based manufacturing and to file an investigational new drug application to advance its lead vaccine candidate to clinical trials.

Morphotek Inks Evaluation Agreement with University Hospital Heidelberg

Morphotek, a subsidiary of Eisai Corporation of North America, said this week that it has signed an evaluation agreement with Germany's University Hospital Heidelberg and its technology transfer office in the area of therapeutic antibodies in oncology.

Terms of the agreement provide for Morphotek to provide an undisclosed research grant to the University Hospital/National Center for Tumor Diseases, and for Morphotek to use certain biological materials from the hopsital to generate and validate therapeutic monoclonal antibodies against oncology targets selected by the company.

"This research program offers Morphotek unique clinical materials to generate and validate potential therapeutic antibodies using our Morphodoma technologies," Morphotek President and CEO Nicholas Nicolaides said in a statement.

SRI International Signs Licensing and Research Pact with AuricX Pharma

Non-profit research and development organization SRI International this week announced a licensing and research agreement with AuricX Pharmaceuticals.

Under the terms of the agreement, AuricX has gained rights from SRI to oral formulations of the antibiotic vancomycin. In exchange, SRI received undisclosed upfront payments and will be eligible for success-based milestones and royalties on sales.

Additional terms were not disclosed.

Early proof-of-concept work at SRI to develop the orally bioavailable vancomycin formulation was funded by a contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Under the research agreement with AuricX, SRI will complete its formulation studies and fully optimize the oral bioavailability of vancomycin, the organization said.

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U of Iowa Research Park Opens Incubator for Biotech Startups

The University of Iowa Research Park has opened its BioVentures Center, a business incubator that will house startup companies commercializing UI biotechnology research, as well as life science ventures wanting to locate near the university and use its research capabilities.

The 35,000-square-foot facility provides 20 wet laboratories and 16 offices for startup and early-stage biotech companies. The center is the largest wet-lab business incubator in Iowa and is the first major wet-lab space for startup companies to open at UI, Thomas Sharpe, associate vice president for economic development at UI, said in a statement.

The $8.5 million cost of the BioVentures Center was supported in part by Grow Iowa Values funds from the state and tax increment funding from the city of Coralville, where the center is located.

As of Jan. 8, more than 50 percent of the space was leased or committed. ASL Analytical, Cellular Engineering Technologies, Exemplar Genetics, KemPharm, Terpenoid Therapeutics, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals are the first companies slated to occupy the facility.

Burnham Institute and J&J Collaborate on Assay Development

Burnham Institute for Medical Research said this week that it has signed an assay development and license agreement with Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development.

The partnership is Burnham's first with a large pharmaceutical company, the institute said.

Under the agreement, Burnham will provide J&JRPD with access to high-throughput assay screening technologies to investigate certain drug targets for inflammatory diseases.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Copernicus Partners with U of Kentucky on DNA Nanoparticle Parkinson's Rx

Copernicus Therapeutics this week said that it will collaborate with the University of Kentucky to develop a DNA nanoparticle therapy for Parkinson's disease.

The collaboration is based on positive initial treatments in a rat model of Parkinson's disease conducted by UK researcher David Yurek.

Copernicus and UK will now conduct a second phase of studies to optimize the nanoparticle payload, a DNA expression system that may be capable of expressing candidate therapeutics for months or years in the affected brain regions of Parkinson's disease patients, Copernicus said.

Funding for the project has been provided by the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Copernicus did not disclose the funding amount or additional details of the collaboration.

Online Data Services Unveils Free IP-Exchange Website

Online Data Services this week unveiled, a website that allows intellectual property owners to post their technologies for sale or licensing for free.

The company said that more than 8,000 technologies are currently available for sale or license in areas such as aeronautics, biotechnology, chemistry, communications, engineering, food science, geophysics, alternative energy, nanotechnology, and computer science.

Access to the site is free, ODS said. There is no charge to post a technology for sale or license or to list a technology that is wanted.

The company also said that licensees or purchasers may contact each other directly with no fee, and negotiate their own terms for the licensing or purchase of the technology. does not collect a fee or percentage of any technology transfer deals.

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Japan to Support Academic Institutions with iPS Patenting

Japan's Education, Science, and Technology Ministry has decided to expand support for universities and research institutions wishing to patent technologies derived from studies on induced pluripotent stem cells, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported this week.

Currently, only Kyoto University and selected institutions that research iPS cells receive ministry support, according to the report. Beginning in April, all universities and research institutions engaged in such work will be able to receive similar backing, Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

The support may help Japanese universities and research institutions hire intellectual property specialists that are well-versed in Western countries' patent systems, and conduct surveys of overseas stem cell patents, according to the report.

U of Oregon Announces Venture Development Fund Awards

The University of Oregon this week announced that it has awarded six grants totaling $191,849 from its University Venture Development Fund, a tax-incentive program created in 2007 by the Oregon Legislature to help realize the commercial potential of research at state universities (see BTW, 10/15/2007).

Three of the recent awards will support life science or biomedical projects, including:

• $30,000 to advance work by chemistry professors Andy Berglund and Michael Haley that may lead to a drug for myotonic dystrophy, the most common adult form of muscular dystrophy.

• $30,142 to biology professor Shawn Lockery of the UO Institute of Neuroscience to develop a microscopic fluid system that rapidly evaluates new drugs for combating parasitic worm infections such as river blindness in humans and animals.

• $31,120 to test a novel magnetic resonance imaging coil created by physicist Jolinda Smith of the UO Lewis Center for Neuroimaging and development engineer Clifford Dax of the UO Technical Sciences Administration.

So far, UO has awarded a dozen grants totaling $449,857 through the UVDF.

TEDCO Gives 10 Company-University Partners Tech-Transfer Funding

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation announced this week that 10 Maryland technology companies have received $726,710 in total funding.

Each company received approximately $75,000 from TEDCO's Maryland Technology Transfer Fund, a program designed to foster greater collaboration between businesses and Maryland universities and federal laboratories in order to bring technology into the marketplace.

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A number of biomedical projects received awards, including:

• Aparna Biosciences, located in Rockville, Md., which is working with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to develop a biomedical nanoparticle technology for a new class of antifungals that will be used for life-threatening fungal infections in critical care situations.

• CCC Diagnostics, located in Baltimore, which is working with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to further develop technologies to assist physicians in designing personalized treatment regimens for patients fighting breast, lung, colon, gastric, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers.

• Encore Path, located in Baltimore, which is working with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to further develop and commercialize clinically proven stroke rehabilitation devices developed at UMB, including a bilateral arm trainer with rhythmic auditory cueing.

Angion Biomedica Inks Option Agreement with MSKCC for Vaccine Tech

Angion Biomedica has signed an exclusive world-wide licensing option with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York for a vaccine platform, Angion said last week.

The vaccine platform, developed by MSKCC professor Samuel Danishefsky, enables presentation of multiple carbohydrate antigens on a single synthetic scaffold and has been shown to trigger an in vivo immune response to multiple oncology-related targets, Angion said.

The vaccine scaffold can be customized for various clinical indications. Angion has planned to begin a Phase I clinical trial in early 2009.

UT Southwestern Using WaferGen's SmartChip in Wound Care Studies

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center will use WaferGen's real-time PCR system in its gene expression biomarker research, the company said last week.

Under the collaborative agreement, UT Southwestern will use the company's SmartChip system to identify and validate biomarkers related to wound healing, and it will study the impact of those biomarkers on patient response to treatment.

The research may lead to discovery of specific genes related to wound healing that could be used to develop new tools for determining appropriate treatments, said Fremont, Calif.-based WaferGen.

Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

RNAi Shop Kylin Therapeutics Wins $1.2M from Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund

Kylin Therapeutics, a company based at Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Ind., has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from Indiana's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund toward commercializing its disease fighting technology.

The technology, called pRNAi, is a Purdue University platform that uses RNA interference to directly target disease-causing genes. Kylin is in the pre-clinical stage of further developing the technology to target drug delivery for treatment of diseases ranging from AIDS to cancer.

Formed through a joint effort between IN-vivo Ventures and North Carolina-based Golden Pine Ventures, Kylin Therapeutics acquired an exclusive license to pRNA from Purdue in 2007.

Kylin Therapeutics is one of 59 businesses awarded a 21st Century Fund grant since January 2006.

The Scan

Nucleotide Base Detected on Near-Earth Asteroid

Among other intriguing compounds, researchers find the nucleotide uracil, a component of RNA sequences, in samples collected from the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, as they report in Nature Communications.

Clinical Trial Participants, Investigators Point to Importance of Clinical Trial Results Reporting in Canadian Study

Public reporting on clinical trial results is crucial, according to qualitative interviews with clinical trial participants, investigators, and organizers from three provinces appearing in BMJ Open.

Old Order Amish Analysis Highlights Autozygosity, Potential Ties to Blood Measures

Researchers in BMC Genomics see larger and more frequent runs-of-homozygosity in Old Order Amish participants, though only regional autozygosity coincided with two blood-based measures.

Suicidal Ideation-Linked Loci Identified Using Million Veteran Program Data

Researchers in PLOS Genetics identify risk variants within and across ancestry groups with a genome-wide association study involving veterans with or without a history of suicidal ideation.