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Pfizer, University of Pennsylvania, Syntermed, Emory University, V-Clip Pharma, University of Colorado, Genentech, MedImmune, City of Hope Medical Center, Q Therapeutics, Johns Hopkins University, Duska Therapeutics, Duke University, Emergent Technologies

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Pfizer and UPenn Medical Sign $15M Research, Clinical Development, and Policy Pact
 
Pfizer said late last week that it has entered into a three-year, $15 million collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in the areas of scientific research, clinical development, and clinical care and policy.
 
Under the terms of the agreement, scientists from Pfizer and the UPenn School of Medicine will work together on several projects of mutual interest including basic and translational research in several therapeutic areas. Pfizer said that the initial emphasis of the projects will be on neurosciences and oncology, but may expand to other areas.
 
Project proposals will be solicited and reviewed by a committee with representation from both parties, Pfizer said.
 
In addition, Pfizer and UPenn will develop an initiative to improve the management of cardiovascular risk and patient adherence to treatments among patients currently served by the UPenn Health System. Results from the pilot programs will be shared with the goal of initiating similar programs at other academic medical centers, Pfizer said.
 
Lastly, Pfizer and UPenn will work together to examine current policy and practices in areas of mutual interest, including ongoing education on new therapeutics for physicians.
 
“This collaboration provides an opportunity for Pfizer and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to build and implement a new model for interactions between industry and academic medical centers,” Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer Global Research and Development, said in a statement.
 
The agreement with UPenn also represents, in part, an extension of existing clinical study collaborations with the university, Pfizer said. Since 1985, Pfizer has sponsored 130 clinical studies at UPenn across 10 therapeutic areas, including oncology, psychiatry, and infectious disease.
 
The deal is the latest in a string of multi-million-dollar sponsored research agreements Pfizer has entered into with US universities and research institutions. Earlier last week, Pfizer announced a three-year, $9.5 million drug-discovery and development pact with the University of California, San Francisco spanning several disciplines, Pfizer research units, and UC campuses (see BTW, 6/11/2008).
 
In January, Pfizer struck a five-year, $25 million partnership with Washington University in the area of immuno-inflammatory diseases (see BTW, 1/30/2008); and in April it finalized a three-year, $14 million arrangement with the Insulin Resistance Pathway Project, a public-private consortium involving researchers from biotech firm Entelos, UC-Santa Barbara, the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Massachusetts (see BTW, 4/30/2008).
 
Pfizer also established a Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center in the Bay Area in October to foster collaborations with the academic, biotech, and venture communities, and in May 2007, the company began supporting academic start-up companies in a 26,600-square-foot incubator in La Jolla, Calif., that will also fund candidate companies with an average of $2 million per over two years (see BTW, 5/7/2007).
 

 
Emory Grants License to Syntermed for Cardiac Imaging Software
 
Emory University has granted a license for imaging software that will allow more accurate diagnosis and treatment for heart failure patients to Syntermed, an Atlanta-based nuclear medicine imaging and informatics company, Emory said last week.
 
The software uses multiharmonic phase analysis, a technology developed by Emory scientists Ernest Garcia and Jing Chen. MHPA is designed to quickly and reliably determine which heart failure patients will benefit from cardiac resynchronization therapy, Emory said.
 
Syntermed will market the MHPA-based software as SyncTool, which will be added to the Emory Cardiac toolbox, a set of software tools for evaluating cardiac images developed by Garcia and colleagues at Emory and elsewhere and used in almost half the cardiac laboratories in the US, the university said.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
 

 
V-Clip Pharma Expands Licensing Agreement with University of Colorado
 
V-Clip Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Viral Genetics, has expanded an existing exclusive license agreement with the University of Colorado by obtaining two exclusive options to acquire rights for technology related to developing immune-based therapies for a variety of diseases using the thymus nuclear protein compound.
 
Specifically, the options cover the rights for treatment and detection of several forms of cancer including lung, breast, leukemia, and others; multiple sclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, malaria, and several other diseases. The technology was developed by Karen Newell, professor of biology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
 
The existing exclusive license agreement was previously restricted to HIV/AIDS, herpes, and hepatitis C, Viral Genetics said.
 
The first exclusive option agreement covers multiple sclerosis and diabetes. The second option agreement is for scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, Addison’s disease, ankylosing spondylitis, Hashimoto’s disease, myasthenia gravis, macular degeneration, lung cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, Lyme disease, sepsis, West Nile virus, malaria, tuberculosis, varicella zoster virus, flu virus, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus/mononucleosis.
 
Specific terms of the options were not disclosed.
 
V-Clip is a subsidiary of Viral Genetics. Other shareholders include Newell, the University of Colorado’s equity holding arm, and other individuals. The company was formed to acquire the original exclusive license agreement rights to Newell’s technology.
 

 
Genentech Settles Cabilly Patent Litigation with MedImmune
 
Genentech said last week that it has settled its patent litigation with MedImmune involving the Cabilly patent (US Patent No. 6,331,415), which is named for its inventor, Shmuel Cabilly, and co-owned by Genentech and City of Hope Medical Center and relates in part to methods of producing antibodies.
 
Under the terms of the settlement, the litigation, which was pending before the US District Court for the Central District of California, has now been fully resolved and dismissed. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
 
The settlement resolves disputed issues with respect to MedImmune’s marketed product Synagis, as well as a related product for which MedImmune is seeking regulatory approval. The settlement also permits MedImmune to obtain licenses for certain additional pipeline products under the Cabilly patent family.
 
MedImmune filed its original complaint in April 2003. Following a US Supreme Court decision in January 2007, the case was returned to the lower courts for further proceedings, Genentech said.
 

 
Q Therapeutics and Johns Hopkins Win $800K Grant from Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund
 
Q Therapeutics and Johns Hopkins University researcher Nicholas Maragakis have received an $800,000 grant from the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund to enable the study of Q’s human neural cell product Q-Cells in preclinical models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the company said last week.
 
Maragakis is an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins and is the principal investigator. James Campanelli, senior director of R&D at Q, is co-investigator on the grant.
 
The research team will focus on the ability of Q-Cells to protect motor neurons from degeneration in the SOD-1 rat model of ALS. Positive results of these studies would be supportive of a future investigational new drug submission to the US Food and Drug Administration for conducting trials in ALS patients, Q said.
 
ALS would represent a second disease target for Q-Cells in a degenerative condition of the central nervous system. Q, based in Salt Lake City, is planning to submit an IND to use Q-Cells to treat patients who have lost significant function due to transverse myelitis, a demyelinating condition of the spinal cord that is closely related to MS. This work is also being conducted at Johns Hopkins University, Q said.
 

 
Duska Thera Licenses Duke, Johns Hopkins Cardiovascular Drug Portfolio
 
Duska Therapeutics said last week that it has been granted an exclusive, worldwide license to a portfolio of investigational cardiovascular drugs from Duke University and Johns Hopkins University.
 
Duska will use the IP portfolio to develop and commercialize products for the treatment of heart failure. The most advanced drug in the portfolio is expected to enter a Phase II clinical study later this year, Duska said.
 
The drug portfolio was developed in part by Jonathan Stamler, professor of research in cardiovascular diseases and professor of medicine and biochemistry at Duke; and Joshua Hare, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology and director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami. Hare was formerly associated with Johns Hopkins.
 
The Phase II candidate and all other drugs in the portfolio are designed to correct nitric oxide and redox disequilibrium in the failing heart and cardiovascular system, Duska said.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
 

 
Emergent Tech Gives First $50K POC Award to Support Kidney Stone Treatment
 
Life sciences venture firm Emergent Technologies announced this week that the its first Opportunity Texas Proof of Concept Award will be awarded to co-principal investigators Bruce Gnade of the University of Texas at Dallas and Jeffrey Cadeddu of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, for their StoneMag System Kidney Stone Magnetic Retrieval System.
 
The award consists of a $25,000 check and another $25,000 worth of technology commercialization management services that ETI will provide to the UT researchers. The business services will include strategic planning for both technology and business implementation pathways for the StoneMag System invention, ETI said.
 
In a statement, ETI President and CEO Thomas Harlan said, “We have established the Opportunity Texas Award as part of our ongoing collaboration with the UT campuses and to help raise the profile of UT research and of the state of Texas in the life sciences. We received multiple award applications from most of the UT campuses and the technology from UT Dallas was very competitive among the field.”
 
An important aspect of the Opportunity Texas Award selection criteria was market potential for the technology. The UT Dallas StoneMag System is targeted at the urology device market, which is estimated to be more than $1 billion per year in 2008 and growing at a rate of 20 percent worldwide, ETI said.
 

 
Fox Chase and VisEn to Conduct Clinical Trials for ‘Smart’ Oncology Imaging Agents
 
Fox Chase Cancer Center and VisEn Medical this week announced a partnership to advance Phase I clinical trials of one of VisEn Medical's "smart" fluorescence-activatable imaging agents to enable physicians to identify and characterize early-stage cancer.
 
Olympus Medical Systems will provide paired fluorescence laparoscopic imaging systems to enable the detection and evaluation of ProSense highlighted tumors in patients in the trials. The clinical trials will initially focus on ovarian cancer and are planned to begin in 2009 at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
 
Under terms of the program, VisEn will develop and submit an investigational new drug application on a clinical analog of its proprietary fluorescence molecular imaging agent, ProSense, which highlights certain enzymatic processes associated with early stage cancer development in vivo.
 
In addition to conducting the clinical trials, Fox Chase Cancer Center will invest in the ProSense clinical program through VisEn and will receive undisclosed rights, equity, and royalties on future sales.
 

 
Gladstone Institute and iZumi Form Research, Licensing Pact for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
 
Bay Area biotech firm iZumi Bio and the J. David Gladstone Institutes, an independent non-profit biomedical research organization, have announced a research collaboration and licensing agreement to focus on applications for induced pluripotent stem cells, the organizations said this week.
 
Elements of the broad partnership include iZumi Bio taking a license to certain Gladstone patents and sponsoring research related to iPS cells and cardiovascular disease. Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, will lead the research and will join iZumi Bio's scientific advisory board.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
 

 
TEDCO Awards $400K to Eight Projects Under UTDF Program
 
The Maryland Technology Development Corporation, or TEDCO, said this week that it has awarded eight university research projects a total of $400,000 total through its University Technology Development Fund, which was created in 2001 to help researchers in the state develop and optimize new technological inventions.
 
The current round of awards went to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland Baltimore, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the University of Maryland College Park. Of the eight awards, six were for biotech or life science technologies.
 
The UTDF program has funded 86 research projects since its inception in 2001. To date, it said, 71 of these projects have been completed and 30 have been licensed to private companies, 23 of which are located in Maryland. Of those licensees, 17 were startup companies in the state, nine received follow-on funding through TEDCO’s Maryland Technology Transfer Fund, and three through TEDCO’s TechStart program.  
 
Biotech researchers funded under the current round of grants include:
  • Jennifer Elisseeff, associate professor in the department of biomedical engineering and adjunct professor in orthopedic surgery at JHU, who received $50,000 to further develop an ocular biosynthetic adhesive, which is designed to reduce the risk of serious complications in cataract and corneal reconstruction procedures.
  • Hai-Quan Mao, assistant professor in the department of materials science and engineering at JHU, who received $50,000 to further develop a hydrogel microfiber system scaffold for stem cell culture and delivery.
  • Igal Madar, a research scientist in the department of radiology and radiological science at JHU, who received $50,000 to develop a radiotracer for positron emission tomography imaging of coronary artery disease.
  • Nabile Safdar, assistant professor of diagnostic radiology at UMB, who received $50,000 to further develop existing research on a computer-aided detection application for diagnosis of cartilage injuries.
  • Liang Zhu, associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at UMBC, who received $50,000 to develop a novel cooling device to minimize ischemic brain injury due to loss of oxygen during open heart and neck surgical procedures.
  • Douglas English, assistant professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at UMCP, who received $50,000 to develop catanionic surfactant vesicles as transfection agents for small interfering RNA.

 
New Zealand, Australia, Commit $30M to Drive Medical Tech Transfer
 
The West Australian-based fund Westscheme is committing $30 million in investment capital to help fund early-stage development of biomedical start-up companies in Australia and New Zealand, government officials from the two nations said this week.
 
The program involves Monash University, the University of Auckland, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and the University of South Australia.
 

 
MBL, RTDC Receive $10M in Funding from Mass. Life Sciences Bill; Tech-Transfer Among Goals
 
The Marine Biological Laboratory and the Regional Technology Development Corp. of Cape Cod said this week that they have been awarded $10 million under a $1 billion life sciences investment bill that the governor of Massachusetts signed into law on Monday.
 
The funds will be used for a number of initiatives at MBL, including a project with the RTDC to help promote technology transfer “and the creation of new companies based on new life sciences technologies,” MBL said in a statement.
 
The funds will also support infrastructure improvements at MBL as well as an effort with the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth to establish a center for regenerative biology and medicine at MBL’s Woods Hole campus.
 
“The RTDC’s goal is to stimulate commercialization of emerging technologies while creating full-time, year-round jobs that diversify the local economy,” said Robert Curtis, CEO of the RTDC. “We look forward to collaborating with the MBL to establish this new center and to shepherding innovation from the MBL and related institutions to accelerate the formation and growth of new bioenterprises on the Cape.”

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.