Nine new industry collaborations driving drug discovery forward

1. SpyBiotech and the University of Oxford

Biotechnology company SpyBiotech and University of Oxford have entered a research agreement for the development of a vaccine against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

The project will combine Oxford’s academic research capabilities with SpyBiotech’s proprietary SPYVLP platform technology to advance three vaccine candidates targeting EBV and test these in a Phase I clinical trial.

“This research collaboration is an important step forward on a commonly spread virus with no currently available vaccines or therapeutics for its prevention or spread,” said Mark Leuchtenberger, Chief Executive Officer of SpyBiotech. “Studies have found that EBV triggers a range of very serious health conditions including certain cancers and multiple sclerosis. A recent study led by Stanford Medicine and senior author Dr William Robinson notes that 99% of MS patients have EBV antibodies in their blood, indicating prior infection. We see a great need for a vaccine against EBV.”

2. Closed Loop Medicine and Pharmanovia

TechBio Closed Loop Medicine and pharma company have initiated the OptiZest study and recruited the first patient.

OptiZest will investigate whether patients with hypertension can improve blood pressure control at home while receiving a personalised dose of Zestril (lisinopril).

The study demonstrates an important stage in Closed Loop Medicine and Pharmanovia’s co-development partnership to progress the development and launch of a drug plus software combination version of a first-line anti-hypertensive in the UK, before phased global roll-out and additional therapeutic areas are added.

By combining Closed Loop Medicine’s proprietary Software-as-a-Medical Device (SaMD) dose optimisation technology and Pharmanovia’s established medicine brands, the companies aim to support patients and healthcare professionals.

3. Sartorius and NVIDIA

Sartorius is expanding its multidisciplinary collaboration with NVIDIA combining Sartorius’ knowledge of life sciences and bioprocessing with NVIDIA’s AI-powered computing platforms and software.

Sartorius has been working with NVIDIA since 2020. The focus of the collaboration has been on developing predictive AI models of stem cell-derived organoids to replace animal models in drug discovery and precision medicine.

Sartorius is also using NVIDIA solutions for predictive bioprocess design and simulation tools for manufacturing innovative therapies.

“Biological interactions are exceptionally complex. Making better use of data by integrating life science expertise with AI solutions is a promising approach to simplify and accelerate biopharma drug discovery and manufacturing progress. This expanded collaboration with NVIDIA will help result in relevant technological innovations for our customers and ultimately for patients,” said Professor Dr Oscar-Werner Reif, Chief Technology Officer of Sartorius.

4. ERS Genomics and IRBM

ERS Genomics and IRBM have signed an agreement granting IRBM access to ERS’ CRISPR/Cas9 patent portfolio.

Carlo Toniatti, IRBM, said: “We are committed to delivering high quality drugs by leveraging our broad range of expertise and capabilities across the entire preclinical drug discovery continuum. With the integration of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology we are increasing our capability to identify and validate potential drug targets, to generate more predictive pre-clinical models and to elucidate the mechanisms of action of novel therapeutics.”

John E Milad, CEO, ERS Genomics, commented: “We are committed to supporting cutting-edge research and expanding the horizons of medical innovation by providing companies such as IRBM with the ability to take advantage of CRISPR/Cas9 technology. We look forward to seeing the innovative ways in which our gene editing technology will be utilised in various stages of drug discovery, providing candidates for a wide range of therapeutic areas.”

6. GSK and Imperial College London

GSK has become the first founding partner of the Fleming Initiative, a collaborative approach led by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) around the world.

The Fleming Initiative’s unique and transformative approach will bring together world-class scientific, technology, policy and behavioural science expertise with clinical experience in a global network of centres to find, test, and scale solutions to AMR.

GSK’s £45 ($57.5) million pledge would be available for approved projects to harness new technology including AI to better interpret and use complex scientific data, identify new opportunities to develop novel treatments and interventions, improve understanding of how drug-resistant infections are transmitted and can be prevented, and understand how better surveillance approaches might improve detection and tracking of infections.

The Initiative will also have a strong focus on diagnostics so that the right antimicrobial drugs are given to those who need them, and on education and public engagement to support behavioural change to reduce AMR.

7. PrecisionLife and Metrodora Institute

US healthcare centre Metrodora Institute and PrecisionLife have started recruitment on a cohort of up to 1,000 patients into clinical trials to evaluate new diagnosis and treatment options for ME/CFS, Long Covid, and related disorders.

The partners have developed genotypic diagnostic tests that are now being evaluated for their ability to provide clinicians with an accurate view of a patient’s risk of a specific disease. Ultimately, using the molecular profile of their underlying disease mechanisms, these tests will also be used to recruit cohorts to evaluate the effectiveness of drug repurposing candidates targeting specific disease mechanisms to improve patient outcomes.

The partners have also identified a number of drug repurposing candidates associated with disease modifying mechanisms in ME/CFS and Long Covid, that if proved well-tolerated and effective in the planned trials, could accelerate the approval of effective new personalised treatments for patients.

8. Secarna Pharmaceuticals and Orbit Discovery

Secarna Pharmaceuticals and Orbit Discovery have entered a collaboration to discover and develop peptide-conjugated targeted antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) therapeutics.

The collaboration will leverage Orbit’s bead-based peptide display engine for the identification, screening, and selection of cyclic peptides specific to a wide range of disease targets, to be paired with Secarna’s ASO molecules.

“We are very pleased to embark on this collaboration with Orbit Discovery, as the team’s expertise in peptide discovery and development will further enhance our capabilities for the development of targeted antisense therapeutics,” said Konstantin Petropoulos, CBO of Secarna Pharmaceuticals.

“We look forward to working with Orbit to expand both the therapeutic potential and universe of targeted ASO therapeutics with highly specific, potent, safe and convenient therapeutic options available for patients who urgently need them.”

9. etherna and Hasselt University

etherna and Hasselt University (UHasselt) have partnered to develop an mRNA-based treatment for autoimmune disorders.

Funded by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), the project aims to combine etherna’s experience of developing customised mRNA and lipid-based nanoparticle technologies for immuno-modulation with UHasselt’s research into autoimmune diseases with a particular focus on multiple sclerosis.

Professor Dr Bieke Broux, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, UHasselt, said: “This innovative project was created by bringing together the expertise of etherna in mRNA and LNP technologies and the extensive immunological knowledge available in the Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED) of Hasselt University.

“My team focuses specifically on finding solutions for the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis. To this end, we use human in vitro models, as well as laboratory animal models to translationally test our findings.”

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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