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Tech Transfer Tidbits: May 6, 2009

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JWCI, NIH, CHLA License IP to CerRx Related to Using Vitamin A Formulation as Cancer Treatment

The John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center, the National Institutes of Health, and Children's Hospital Los Angeles have granted Texas biotech CerRx worldwide exclusive rights to intellectual property and know-how related to a formulation of vitamin A to treat cancer, JWCI said last week.

The technology was developed over the last decade through a collaboration between Myles Cabot of JWCI at Saint John's, based in Santa Monica, Calif.; Shanker Gupta and Rao Vishnuvajjala at the NIH; and Patrick Reynolds and Barry Maurer, formerly of CHLA but currently at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine.

The researchers have shown that using an analog of vitamin A called 4-HPR, or fenretinide, in combination with certain other drugs shows promise for selectively killing certain types of cancer cells, JWCI said.

Fenretinide works by stimulating overproduction of normal cellular waxes in cancer cells that when produced in excess are lethal to the cells. The compound, either as a single agent or in combination with a partnering drug that slows degradation of the waxes, may have therapeutic benefit, especially in recurring or relapsed malignant disease, the institute said.

Intravenous fenretinide emulsion is in Phase I clinical trials for pediatric neuroblastomas and leukemia, and adult solid tumors and blood cancer. In a Phase II study of recurrent ovarian cancer, high plasma levels of fenretinide were associated with improved outcome, JWCI said.

CerRx, located in Lubbock, Texas, was founded late last year to commercially develop the technology.

Financial details of the licensing agreement were not disclosed.


Brown University Spinout NabSys Nets $4M in Equity Financing

Nabsys, a DNA-sequencing shop spun out of Brown University in 2005, said this week that it has reeled in $4 million in an equity investment round, which it will use to develop its sequencing platform.

The financing round included an investment from Point Judith Capital, Slater Technology Fund, and "other previous investors," the company said.

Nabsys, based in Providence, RI, is developing an electronic, solid-state DNA sequencing technology originally developed by Xinsheng Sean Ling, associate professor of physics at Brown and co-founder of the company.

The technology electronically detects the positions of hybridized DNA probes and uses algorithms to reconstruct DNA sequences.

Brown has granted Nabsys exclusive worldwide rights to certain intellectual property related to the invention, and holds a "significant" undisclosed equity interest in the company, according to past press statements.


OICR Awards C$2.25M to Support Cancer Tech Projects at Ontario Institutions

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research this week announced it has invested C$2.25 million ($1.91 million) in five promising early-stage cancer technologies.

The recipients will use the funds to continue the early commercial development of their discoveries, OICR said.

The recipients of the awards are:

• Michael Sherar, Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program, University Health Network, Toronto, for radio frequency ablation technology for treating solid tumors;

• Aaron Schimmer, Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program, University Health Network, Toronto, to develop chemical proteasome inhibitors;

• Gang Zheng, Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program, University Health Network, Toronto, for nanoparticles for targeted delivery of siRNA-based cancer therapeutics;

• Jorge Filmus, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, to develop glypican-3 as a novel marker for the early diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma

• Shana Kelley and Ted Sargent, University of Toronto, for the GenEplex platform for detecting cancer biomarkers.

Individual award amounts were not disclosed.

OICR said that it will actively participate in efforts to commercialize the selected projects by providing additional expertise and resources and working collaboratively with the recipients and their scientists.


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Canada's MDS Nordion, TRIUMF, UBC Partner to Develop New Diagnostic Imaging Agents

MDS Nordion has entered into a three-year R&D partnership with TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, and the University of British Columbia, to develop new diagnostic imaging agents, the company said this week.

Under the terms of the agreement, MDS Nordion, TRIUMF, and UBC will provide complementary expertise in chelate design and synthesis, analytical chemistry, and radiochemistry to design medical isotope products using technology based on radiometals and chelates.

MDS Nordion, based in Ottawa, will provide required medical isotopes produced at its facility on the TRIUMF campus. Each partner will provide funding and in-kind contributions for the project, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada will provide a grant for an undisclosed amount through its co-operative R&D program.

MDS Nordion, TRIUMF, and UBC researchers will also explore alternative technologies, as well as experiment with new modalities for diagnostic imaging and treatments.

"This strategic partnership with TRIUMF and UBC is expected to accelerate innovation, which could provide the opportunity to commercialize new molecular medicine products," MDS Nordion President Steve West said in a statement.


ImmuneRegen BioSciences Licenses Data, IP from UPitt for Vaccine Adjuvant

ImmuneRegen BioSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of IR Biosciences Holdings, said last week that it has obtained a license from the University of Pittsburgh for the rights to data and intellectual property related to a potential vaccine adjuvant being developed by the company.

ImmuneRegen said that research by Adriana Larregina, a research assistant professor in the departments of dermatology and immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, have shown that the active component of Homspera, an agonist of the neurokinin-1 receptor, promotes the activation and migration of skin dendritic cells to lymph nodes to induce functional antigen specific cellular immunity.

The adjuvant effects of the NK1R agonists are highly desired for effective immunization approaches, ImmuneRegen said.

As part of the licensing agreement, ImmuneRegen obtains rights to use Larregina's research data as well as a license to the university's ownership interest in a patent recently filed by ImmuneRegen in support of Homspera's intellectual property portfolio, the company said.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Ohio Joins with OSU, Cardinal Health on $10M Molecular Imaging Technology Center

Ohio's Third Frontier technology-commercialization program will join with the Ohio State University and Cardinal Health to create a $10 million Molecular Imaging Technology Center within an expanded Wright Center of Innovation in Biomedical Imaging at OSU, the program said last week.

The center is designed to provide Ohio State researchers with new manufacturing capabilities and expertise to aid development of new molecular imaging agents in positron emission tomography imaging.

The center is also designed to enhance Cardinal Health's radiopharmaceutical manufacturing facility and nuclear pharmacy operations, allowing it to support manufacturing and dispensing of these agents for clinical trials across its national network of radiopharmaceutical facilities.

The $1.6 billion Third Frontier program will set aside $5 million for the initiative, while Cardinal will spend $2 million to $3 million, and the rest will come from the university and other partners such as the Wright Center’s recent spinoffs or pharmaceutical companies, according to a report last week by newspaper Business First of Columbus.

The Scan

And Back

The New York Times reports that missing SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences are back in a different database.

Lacks Family Hires Attorney

A lawyer for the family of Henrietta Lacks plans to seek compensation from pharmaceutical companies that have used her cancer cells in product development, the Baltimore Sun reports.

For the Unknown

The Associated Press reports that family members are calling on the US military to use new DNA analysis techniques to identify unknown sailors and Marines who were on the USS Arizona.

PLOS Papers on Congenital Heart Disease, COVID-19 Infection Host MicroRNAs, Multiple Malformation Mutations

In PLOS this week: new genes linked to congenital heart disease, microRNAs with altered expression in COVID-19, and more.