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Tech Transfer Tidbits: May 20, 2009


Accelerator Launches mAb Firm Based on U Wash IP

Seattle-based biotech investment and development firm Accelerator said this week that it has formed its 10th startup, Xori, which is developing a new technology for discovering and developing monoclonal antibodies for therapeutic use.

Xori (pronounced chore-ee), is the second Accelerator-backed startup based on intellectual property developed at the University of Washington. The technology was developed by Xori founder Nancy Maizels, director of the Molecular Medicine Program at the university, and enables "the evolution and selection of high affinity antibodies specific for virtually any target," Accelerator said.

The technology will enable Xori to identify high-affinity mAbs "within a matter of weeks, as opposed to the more traditional methods, which require many months and often fail to generate high-quality reagents," Accelerator added.

Xori will validate the technology on a variety of targets with a focus on cancer therapy, immune disorders, and infectious diseases.

Investors in the company's Series A investment include Accelerator partners Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Amgen Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, OVP Venture Partners, PPD, and WRF Capital.

Gilead Files Second Suit Against Teva Charging Infringement of Emory Patents

Gilead Sciences said this week that it has filed its second lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals related to patents owned by Emory University that cover emtrictabine, a component of Gilead's HIV drugs Truvada and Atripla.

The new suit, filed in the US District Court in New York against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, charges the generic drug maker with infringing US Patent Numbers 6,642,245 and 6,703,396, which are owned by Emory University and exclusively licensed to Gilead.

The suit is based on an Abbreviated New Drug Application filed by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA seeking approval to manufacture and market a generic version of Atripla before the expiration of both emtricitabine patents.

It follows a suit that Gilead filed in December 2008 in response to Teva’s attempts to seek approval for a generic version of Truvada (see BTW 12/17/08).

Teva has alleged that the emtricitabine patents are "invalid, unenforceable and/or will not be infringed by Teva’s manufacture, use or sale of its generic product," Gilead said, adding that it has "full confidence in the strength of its patent position and plans to vigorously defend the intellectual property rights of Atripla."

Atripla is protected by 15 patents, and Gilead noted that all 15 would need to be invalidated or expired before a generic version of Atripla could be marketed.

Vical Grants Academic License to Hopkins for DNA Delivery Patents

Vical has granted a non-exclusive, academic license for its DNA delivery technology patent estate to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the company said this week.

Under the terms of the academic license, university researchers may use Vical's technology free of charge for educational and internal, non-commercial research purposes. In exchange, Vical said it has the option to exclusively license from the university "potential commercial applications stemming from the technology on terms to be negotiated."

Vical said that it has also granted academic licenses on the same terms to Stanford University, Harvard University, Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and six other undisclosed academic research institutions.

Vical said that these licenses are "intended to encourage widespread commercial use" of the company's technology, which enables delivery of genetic material into living cells in the body without the use of viruses, "without jeopardizing its proprietary nature."

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Moffitt Cancer Center Grants Frantz BioMarkers Rights to Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers

Moffitt Cancer Center has granted Frantz BioMarkers exclusive worldwide rights to phospholipid biomarkers of ovarian cancer, the Moffitt Cancer Center said this week.

Terms of the deal call for Frantz BioMarkers to pay initiation, developmental-milestone and license-maintenance fees, and royalties on sales based on the IP. Financial specifics were not disclosed.

In addition, Moffitt and Frantz BioMarkers will collaborate on ovarian cancer biomarker research, combining the markers with lipid markers developed independently by Frantz BioMarkers.

Co-inventors of the technology are Rebecca Sutphen, director of clinical genetics at Moffitt, and Lorelei Davis and Lian Shan of Frantz BioMarkers.

Across America Shares Surge 2,000 Percent on Apro Bio Acquisition

Across America Financial Services shares have surged more than 2,000 percent, from $0.50 to $10.50 per share, since it acquired Apro Bio Pharmaceutical in late March.

The new subsidiary, now called Omni Bio Operating, was formed to acquire, license, and develop existing novel therapies.

To date, Omni Bio Operating has secured three licensing agreements with the University of Colorado Denver, which include various patent applications related to the composition of matter and method for treating bacterial infections; an issued patent for treatment of various forms of viral infections; and a patent application related to diabetes and organ graft rejection.

Across America has not reported any "substantial" revenues, and continues to operate at a loss.

Brazilian Ag-Research Shop, UK Tech-Management Firm Pen Tech-Development Alliance

The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and UK-based technology-management company PBL will try to co-develop new technologies for Brazilian agricultural markets, the partners said this week.

The deal, which builds on the UK-Brazil Partnership in Science and Innovation, facilitated by the Science Team at the British Consulate in Sao Paulo, will also aim to promote and market new innovations emerging from the Brazilian company, known as Embrapa.

The alliance gives Embrapa the right to access a group of patented technologies from PBL to help it develop to create new products for Brazilian agriculture. Of particular interest to the farmers are plant genes resistant to drought and disease, and those that can increase crop yield, according to Amauri Buso, manager of the Planning and Business Management department of Embrapa.

PBL will also add selected Embrapa innovations to its portfolio and market these to the global industrial sectors on behalf of Embrapa, the firms said.

Mercury Therapeutics Licenses Dartmouth Protein Kinase IP to Millipore

Mercury Therapeutics said yesterday that it has granted Millipore exclusive worldwide rights to human AMP-activated protein kinase in the field of research products and services.

The AMPK patent was originally licensed by Mercury Therapeutics in 2000 from Dartmouth College. The patent is based on research by Dartmouth professor Lee Witters and his collaborator Bruce Kemp from St. Vincent's Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.

The transaction includes an undisclosed upfront license fee, royalties on net sales, and sharing of all sublicense revenue for the life of the agreement, Mercury said.

Mercury, based in Woburn, Mass., develops AMPK activators as therapeutics for type 2 diabetes, oncology, and cardiovascular disease.

"This association with Millipore promises to advance significantly the field of AMPK-directed therapies," Witters said in a statement.

Alla Kan, director of Dartmouth's Technology Transfer Office, added that the technology "has always been seen by us as one of our crown jewels, and now with this exciting development, its time has come."

Bioasis and UBC Partner on p97 Assay for Alzheimer's Dx, Rx-Dx

Bioasis Technologies said this week that it has entered into a collaborative research agreement with the University of British Columbia to develop and test an ELISA assay to detect concentration levels of the protein p97 in blood.

Bioasis said in a statement that the agreement is "a critical step" in the process of BTI obtaining regulatory approval for p97 as a biomarker for Alzheimer's disease and as a physician's aid to diagnose Alzheimer's. Additionally, the test may be used to monitor the effectiveness of therapeutics used to treat the disease.

Under the one-year agreement, a UBC team comprising dedicated full-time research technicians, a post doctoral fellow, and a part-time project administrator will develop standard operating procedures around the assay, which will be supplied for distribution to clinical laboratories as part of the license terms, BTI said.

Other objectives of the agreement are to correlate the presence of p97 in tissues with other markers of Alzheimer's disease, such as the presence of senile plaques; and to correlate the expression of p97 with other markers of Alzheimer's disease from human bioinformatic databases.

The work will be conducted at the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Clinical Data, Dana Farber to Collaborate on Herceptin Pharmacogenomics

Clinical Data said this week that its PGxHealth division will collaborate with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to validate the use of genetic variants in Fc gamma receptors predict response to trastuzumab (Herceptin) in patients with breast cancer.

PGxHealth will work with researchers at the institute to analyze genetic variants in breast cancer patients enrolled in two independent studies who are receiving Herceptin along with other drugs in the neoadjuvant setting, or in the setting of metastatic disease. They will evaluate FCGR genotypes and their association with pathological and clinical response to Herceptin.

The partners expect to have preliminary data from those studies by the end of this year.

In addition, the collaboration includes an effort to discover new genetic variants that influence response to Herceptin and may also predict response to other monoclonal antibodies of the IgG1 class.

The collaboration will expand on PGxHealth's FCGR program, which includes its PGxPredict: Rituximab test for determining response to rituximab monotherapy in patients with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"In the future, it may be possible to combine testing for inherited genetic factors with tumor markers, such as HER-2/neu, KRAS and others, to develop diagnostic tests that will be highly predictive of individual response to cancer therapies," Marcia Lewis, VP of biomarker development for PGxHealth, said in a statement.

The Scan

Unique Germline Variants Found Among Black Prostate Cancer Patients

Through an exome sequencing study appearing in JCO Precision Oncology, researchers have found unique pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants within a cohort of Black prostate cancer patients.

Analysis of Endogenous Parvoviral Elements Found Within Animal Genomes

Researchers at PLOS Biology have examined the coevolution of endogenous parvoviral elements and animal genomes to gain insight into using the viruses as gene therapy vectors.

Saliva Testing Can Reveal Mosaic CNVs Important in Intellectual Disability

An Australian team has compared the yield of chromosomal microarray testing of both blood and saliva samples for syndromic intellectual disability in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.