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Tech Transfer Tidbits: Aug 12, 2009


Stanford Spinout Eiger Biopharma Licenses Hep C Drug Targets from School

Eiger Biopharmaceuticals, a recent spinout of Stanford University, said last week that it has licensed the exclusive rights to a hepatitis C virus technology from the university.

The technology, discovered in the laboratory of Stanford researcher and Eiger co-founder Jeffrey Glenn, pertains to a variety of drug targets, including key features of NS4B, a non-structural protein in the HCV genome that binds to HCV-RNA and is required for viral replication.

"Disrupting the interaction between NS4B and HCV-RNA may be a promising new method to treat HCV infection and help combat drug resistance to HCV polymerase and protease inhibitors," David Cory, president and CEO of Eiger, said in a statement.

"We are rapidly advancing novel small-molecule inhibitors of NS4B-RNA binding into the clinic for the benefit of clinicians and HCV patients," Cory added.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

This week, the company also announced the initiation of a phase 1b clinical trial in patients chronically infected with HCV. The trial, run in centers in Australia and New Zealand, will investigate the antiviral effect of clemizole monotherapy in the absence of interferon.

“This proof-of-concept study is an important first step in our comprehensive development strategy for clemizole and newly discovered NS4B-RNA binding inhibitors for the treatment of HCV,” Cory said.

Eiger was founded last year based on research conducted by Glenn, an associate professor of medicine, gastroenterology, and hepatology, and director of the Center for Hepatitis and Liver Tissue Engineering at the Stanford School of Medicine.

In February, the company netted a $7.1 million series A financing round co-led by InterWest Partners and Vivo Ventures.

TapImmune Executes Option to Vaccine-Enabling IP from University of British Columbia

TapImmune said last week that it has acquired from the University of British Columbia three follow-on inventions and intellectual property relating to the company's transporters associated with antigen processing, or TAP, technology.

The three patent applications specifically involve the enhancement of antigen presentation in cancer and infectious disease models.

TapImmune said that the deal would "add depth" to its pipeline of vaccines and strengthen the IP surrounding the TAP technology platform.

The company originally took an option from UBC to license the add-on technologies in June of last year.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Acetylon Pharma Nets $7.25M Investment to Develop Dana-Farber, Harvard HDAC Inhibitors

Acetylon Pharmaceuticals said last week that it has completed a $7.25 million series A preferred investment round to fund final lead optimization, preclinical studies, and a first investigational new drug application for its HDAC6-selective histone deacetylase inhibitor drug candidates.

The drug candidates are based on technology developed by scientific co-founders Kenneth Anderson and James Bardner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School; Ralph Mazitschek of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital; and Stuart Schreiber of Harvard.

The company, based in Cambridge, Mass., has a license to the technology from Harvard and Dana-Farber, although the terms of that license have not been disclosed.

Acetylon said the first indications targeted for its HDAC inhibitors are multiple myeloma and rheumatoid arthritis. Acetylon's inhibitors build upon the proven therapeutic potential of HDAC inhibition but are differentiated by their enhanced target selectivity, the company said. As such, Acetylon said it believes its inhibitors may reduce or eliminate the debilitating and sometimes life-threatening side effects associated with the current generation of HDAC inhibitors.

EMD Serono and MD Anderson Ally for Cancer Rx Clinical Research

EMD Serono and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center this week announced a strategic alliance designed to provide MD Anderson with early insight into potential cancer treatments and to accelerate EMD Serono's preclinical and early clinical research.

The three-year, non-exclusive alliance will draw on the expertise and resources of MD Anderson and EMD Serono to design and conduct clinical trials for EMD Serono's oncology product candidates.

The agreement also carries an option to renew after the initial three-year term. Further details of the alliance were not disclosed.

The alliance "allows us to collaborate with a leading biopharmaceutical organization to gain important, earlier insights into preclinical and clinical investigational compounds," Robert Bast, vice president for translational research at MD Anderson, said in a statement.

"We believe there are many opportunities within this alliance to further expand both organizations' research initiatives and programs within oncology to bring more effective treatments to our patients," Bast added.

University of Queensland's IMBcom Licenses HGH Receptor Cell Line to Prolor Biotech

IMBcom, the tech-transfer company of the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said this week that Prolor Biotech has taken a non-exclusive license to a human growth hormone receptor cell line discovered at the university.

The cell line, which can measure potency or the presence of neutralizing antibodies in serum, is less expensive, more reliable and consistent, and does not require animals for testing, as opposed to potency assays currently used in the manufacture of HGH, UQ said.

"We believe that UQ's cell line will help us expedite development and manufacturing of our long-acting version of [HGH]," Shai Novik, president of Prolor, said in a statement. "Not only can the cell line measure the hormone's potency, but it can also be used to detect neutralizing antibodies directed against HGH."

Prolor, based in the Weizmann Science Park in Nes-Ziona, Israel, changed its name from Modigene in June.

In late July, the company said that it had inked an evaluation and option agreement with Yeda Research and Development, the tech-transfer arm of the Weizmann Institute of Science, related to peptide drug candidates, including an anti-obesity peptide, using a delivery technology developed at the Weizmann Institute.

The Scan

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.