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News Briefs: Dec 17, 2008

Hebrew U Spinout Jexys Inks R&D Pact with Teva
Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said this week that its subsidiary Jexys Pharmaceuticals has inked a strategic R&D agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Under the terms of the agreement, Teva will finance Jexys' development of a high-throughput, yeast-based drug-discovery platform and in return will receive a minority equity interest in Jexys.
Following completion of the program, Teva will have the option to in-license five drug candidates discovered by Jexys, according to Teva's choice. This agreement is an extension of a collaborative agreement signed in October 2006 between Jexys and Teva, Yissum said.
Jexys was founded by David Engleberg, a professor of biological chemistry at the Hebrew University.

SUNY Stony Brook Spinout Cornerstone Pharma Nets $6M for Cancer Trials
Cornerstone Pharmaceuticals, a spinout of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said this week that it has raised at least $6 million from private investors to advance its anti-cancer compound to clinical trials.
Specifically, the proceeds are to be primarily used to support clinical trials in the US and Canada to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its first-in-class bioenergetic Altered Energy Metabolism-Directed compound, CPI-613, in a variety of cancer types.
CPI-613 targets distinctive changes in energy metabolism that are associated with the vast majority of solid tumor types, as observed in non-clinical studies, Cornerstone said, and is the lead product candidate from its AEMD compound platform currently being studied in human clinical trials.
The company's AEMD platform is based upon research conducted by Paul Bingham, associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology, and Zuzana Zachar, research assistant professor and director of the master in teaching science program at Stony Brook.

Adeona Pharma Licenses Oral Estriol for Immuno Rxs from University of Kansas
Adeona Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has executed an option to license from the University of Kansas various uses of oral estriol for the treatment of several immunomodulatory diseases.
Adeona is developing oral, once-daily estriol, or Trimesta, for the treatment of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. The drug is currently in an ongoing double-blind, phase IIb clinical trial.
The intellectual property surrounding Trimesta was originally licensed from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Bao Zhu, professor of pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutics at KU, has demonstrated that estriol has strong immunomodulating effects versus other estrogens through its ability to reduce the risk of developing antibody-mediated immune attacks, Adeona said.
"This expansion of our intellectual property through collaborative university-based relationships complements our existing issued patent estate for Trimesta, which has been exclusively licensed from UCLA,” Nicholas Stergis, Adeona's CEO, said in a statement.

Gilead Sues Teva for Infringing Patents Licensed from Emory University
Gilead Sciences said last week that it has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in New York against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Teva Pharmaceuticals for allegedly infringing patents surrounding emtricitabine, a component of Gilead’s HIV drug Truvada.
The patents, US Nos. 6,642,245 and 6,703,396, are owned by Emory University and exclusively licensed to Gilead.
The lawsuit is based on an abbreviated new drug application filed by Teva USA seeking approval to manufacture and market a generic version of Truvada before the expiration of both emtricitabine patents, Gilead said.
Last month, Gilead said it received a notice letter advising that Teva submitted an abbreviated NDA to the US Food and Drug Administration requesting permission to manufacture and market the generic version.
In the letter, Teva alleged that the two patents are invalid, unenforceable, or will not be infringed by Teva’s manufacture of the generic product, Gilead said.

Alnylam, UCSF to Collaborate on RNAi Rx for Uveal Melanoma
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals last week said that it has formed an exclusive collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco, to evaluate an RNAi therapeutic targeting a heterotrimeric G protein alpha-subunit called G-alpha q for the treatment of metastatic uveal melanoma.
The announcement comes on the heels of a publication in the advance online version of Nature linking GNAQ and the cancer.
“The emerging data on cancer genomes and the molecular basis for malignant-cell transformation form a very compelling opportunity for the advancement of RNAi therapeutics targeting genes derived from somatic mutations,” Jared Gollob, senior director of clinical research at Alnylam, said in a statement.
"The new data … greatly increases our understanding of the biology of this disease, and given our clear success in achieving systemic delivery we believe that an RNAi therapeutic targeting GNAQ in uveal melanoma that has spread to the liver may represent an ideal treatment option for this devastating disease,” he said.
Terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

KCI and Wake Forest File Add’l Claims in Patent Suit Against Smith & Nephew
Kinetic Concepts and Wake Forest University have filed additional patent infringement claims against Smith and Nephew in an ongoing patent lawsuit in the Federal District Court in San Antonio, Tex., KCI said last week.
KCI and Wake Forest filed the new infringement claims against Smith and Nephew for the commercialization of a negative pressure wound therapy foam dressing kit. KCI said it believes the dressing kit infringes several patents in its intellectual property portfolio, including three patents licensed to KCI from Wake Forest.
The case is currently set for trial on Oct. 5, 2009.

Kauffman Foundation Launches $10M Program to Study Law and Innovation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has launched a $10 million, five-year program to support research by leading legal and economic scholars on how best to shape the US legal system so that it promotes innovation and growth, the foundation said last week.
The program, called the "Law, Innovation and Growth" initiative, builds on several decades of "law and economics" scholarship, the foundation said. Kauffman will support wide-ranging legal research; legal fellowships for new faculty; and seminars at multiple law schools. The initiative includes:
  • $2.8 million over three years to seven law schools to examine the impact of law and regulation on growth, including, for example, how the tax system and intellectual property law affect startups and new enterprise. Grants were given to researchers at Boston University School of Law; Columbia Law School; Stanford Law School and Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; George Washington University Law School; Harvard Law School; the University of Iowa College of Law; and Yale Law School.
  • $2.8 million over two years to Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society to develop a global network of "legal research labs" to test innovations that will overcome the legal, regulatory, and financial obstacles businesses face, especially as it relates to cyberspace.
  • $2.2 million to fund the selection of Kauffman Legal Research Fellows, which will fund post-doctoral fellows or new assistant professors at the start of their careers, and to support research and/or curriculum development at top law schools, on topics related to innovation and growth.
  • Seminars at leading law schools to convene legal scholars and economists on a range of topics related to innovation and growth; and research and programs relating to law, innovation, and growth at Northwestern Law School, Searle Center.
  • Funds for the Stanford Intellectual Property Litigation Clearinghouse, a first-of-its-kind online database that offers comprehensive information about intellectual property disputes within the United States. This research tool, which launched on Dec. 8, helps scholars, lawyers, policymakers, judges and journalists analyze the efficacy of the system that regulates patents, copyrights, trademarks, antitrust and trade secrets.

NCBC Loans $1.3M to Five State Biotech Startups
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has paid $1.3 million in loans to five biotechnology startup companies in the state, the center said this week.
The loans are designed to fill funding gaps that small North Carolina life-science companies encounter as they move research toward commercialization, the organization said.
The NCBC awarded four Small Business Research Loans, which support applied research critical to the development of products, processes, services or tools with clear commercial potential, to the following companies:
  • Exigent Pharmaceuticals of Durham, $250,000, to help develop compounds that would prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.
  • MastCell Pharmaceuticals of Raleigh, $203,000, to help develop therapies to treat acute gastrointestinal allergic reactions. MastCell received a $24,900 Business Development Loan from NCBC in 2006.
  • Molecular Orthopaedics of Chapel Hill, $350,000, to develop a gene therapy treatment for osteoarthritis using biological nanoparticles.
  • Trana Discovery of Cary, $250,000, to develop its drug-discovery platform to identify new drugs to combat bacterial infections. Trana also received a 2006 Business Development Loan from NCBC for $25,000.
The NCBC awarded one Strategic Growth Loan, which is for companies that have already established proof of concept and require further corporate development, to the following company:
  • FirstString Research of Research Triangle Park, $250,000, to help it develop a series of drugs to reduce scarring and inflammation and regenerate complex tissues during wound healing. FirstString also received a $25,000 Business Development Loan from NCBC earlier this year.