BrainCells Scores $30M in Series B Funding Round
BrainCells has completed a $30 million initial closing of its Series B financing, the company announced this week (see related story, this issue).
The company will use the cash to continue clinical development of its product candidates, including lead candidate BCI-540, and to identify additional candidates to further expand its pipeline.
New investor MedImmune Ventures joined previous investors Bay City Capital, Oxford Bioscience Partners, Technology Partners, Pappas Ventures, and Neuro Ventures in the round.
BCI-540 is being investigated for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. It will enter Phase II development in 2008. BCI-540 was in-licensed from Mitsubishi Pharmaceutical and has been clinically tested in more than 700 patients.
Other product candidates, including two combination products for CNS disorders and an in-licensed compound, BCI-632, from Taisho Pharmaceutical Company, will also be moving towards clinical studies over the next 12 months, the company said.
The company has developed a proprietary drug-discovery platform based on a combination of human cell-based and animal-based assays.
UCI Researchers Improve Method for Genetically Altering hESCs
Investigators at the University of California Irvine this week announced that they have developed a dramatically improved method for genetically manipulating human embryonic stem cells.
This study appears online this week in the journal Stem Cells.
In the current study, three UCI scientists – Peter Donovan, professor of biological chemistry and developmental and cell biology at UCI, and co-director of the UCI Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center; Leslie Lock, assistant adjunct professor of biological chemistry and developmental and cell biology at UCI; and Kristi Hohenstein, a stem cell scientist in Donovan’s lab – used growth factors to keep cells alive.
They then used nucleofection to insert DNA into the cells. Nucleofection uses electrical pulses to punch tiny holes in the cell membrane through which DNA can enter the cell.
According to the researchers, scientists can use the technique to develop populations of hESCs with abnormalities that lead to disease. They can then study those cells to learn more about the disorder and how it is caused. Scientists may also be able to use the technique to correct the disorder in stem cells, then use the healthy cells in a treatment.
The method potentially could help treat monogenic diseases, which result from modifications in a single gene, the investigators said.
April Pyle of the University of California at Los Angeles and Jing Yi Chern of Johns Hopkins University also worked on the genetic modification study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Emory Assay Identifies Drug Candidates Fragile X Syndrome
Emory University scientists announced this week that they have used a new drug-screening method in Drosophila to identify several drugs and small molecules that reverse the features of fragile X syndrome.
The results of the research by lead scientist Stephen Warren, chair of the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, were published online in Nature Chemical Biology.
In the current experiment, the researchers used a Drosophila model lacking the FMR1 gene. The fruit flies have abnormalities in brain architecture and behavior that parallel abnormalities in the human form of fragile X syndrome.
When FMR1-deficient fly embryos were fed food containing increased levels of glutamate, they died during development, which is consistent with the theory that the loss of FMR1 results in excess glutamate signaling.
The scientists placed the FMR1-deficient fly embryos in thousands of wells containing food with glutamate. Each well contained one compound from a library of 2,000 drugs and small molecules. Using this screening method, the scientists identified nine compounds that reversed the lethal effects of glutamate.
The three leading compounds were known activators of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neural pathway already known to inhibit the effects of glutamate. In the study, GABA reversed all the features of fragile X syndrome in the Drosophila, including deficits in the brain's primary learning center and behavioral deficits. The screen also identified other neural pathways that may have a parallel role in fragile X syndrome and could be targets for drug therapy.
University of Fla. Installs Cyntellect’s LEAP System
Cyntellect announced this week that the University of Florida has installed its Laser-Enabled Analysis and Processing system (see CBA News, 9/15/06 and CBA News, 5/11/07).
UF plans to exploit LEAP's in situ live-cell manipulation capabilities to develop new approaches to functionally cloning cells and purifying valuable cell populations. In addition, the school will use LEAP’s laser-based delivery of molecules to important cell types for research in regenerative medicine and drug discovery.
VistaGen Inks Stem-Cell Alliance with Toronto’s UHN, McEwen Center
VistaGen Therapeutics has entered into an embryonic stem cell research alliance with Toronto's University Health Network and its stem cell research affiliate, the McEwen Center for Regenerative Medicine, the company announced this week.
The new collaboration positions VistaGen to continue to leverage the embryonic stem cell biology experience and embryonic stem cell technologies of Gordon Keller, the Director of the McEwen Center for Regenerative Medicine.
VistaGen and Keller expect to study techniques that differentiate ES cells into mature cardiac, liver, and pancreatic beta-islet cells.
The new research program builds on VistaGen's existing strategic licenses to Keller's prior ES cell intellectual property, and covers new ES cell-based research projects.
VistaGen also expects to use the results of this research to develop the next generation of its customized ES cell-based heart, liver, and pancreatic beta-islet cell differentiation systems for discovering new drugs to treat heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.
IonGate, Bio Research Center Collaborate on Japanese SURFE2R Launch
IonGate Biosciences will bring its proprietary SURFace Electrogenic Event Reader technology to the Japanese market, the company announced this week.
IonGate will work with Bio Research Center of Nagoya to introduce the technique, known as SURFE2R, which automatically screens transport proteins in a high-throughput format.
IonGate currently sells SURFE2R in Europe and North America. The launch of SURFE2R in Japan is the first step for increasing IonGate’s presence in the Asian market.
The flagship model of the product family, SURFE2R Workstation 500, will be showcased at two scientific meetings in Japan this month, the company said.
Nimbus Changes Name to Sovicell, Moves to New Facility
Nimbus Biotechnologie, a German-based supplier of ADME/Tox products and services, announced this week that it has changed its name to Sovicell, effective immediately.
Sovicell said that its name change reflects the company’s commitment to becoming a full-range, international supplier of ADME/Tox products and services for pre-clinical research. It is also a reflection of the growth of its business in the last year under a new, more internationally focused management team.
To accommodate the continued expansion of Sovicell’s business, the company recently moved to a new facility in Leipzig’s BioCity district.
TTP Labtech Granted License for RAP Technology
TTP LabTech recently announced that Inverness Medical Switzerland has given it a license to use its Resonant Acoustic Profiling technology, which is incorporated in the RAP·id 4 instrument, in drug discovery and life sciences.
Under the terms of the agreement, TTP LabTech has also acquired rights to design, manufacture, and market the RAP·id 4 instrument, together with associated sensors and consumables.
Resonant Acoustic Profiling is based on resonant quartz sensor technology optimized for the detection of molecular interactions. By directly detecting molecules bound to the surface of a quartz crystal, the system enables concentration measurement and analysis of the binding events between specific molecules in complex samples that may contain solvents, serum, growth media, or other impurities.
RAP·id 4 is a flow-based analysis system which reduces the need to purify samples and generates accurate kinetic, affinity, and concentration measurements from complex mixtures, such as blood, serum, cell culture supernatants, and periplasmic extracts. A stand-alone, fully automated platform, RAP·id 4 is controlled via software.