BioSpace Global Roundup: Antiverse Scores $2 Million to Advance AI Antibody Program

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Wales-based Antiverse raised £1.4 million (about $2 million) to advance its AI antibody drug discovery platform. The funds are expected to accelerate the development of Antiverse’s AI-powered antibody drug discovery technology, focused on identifying new therapeutics for cancer, heart, and lung diseases. The technology aims to speed up drug development from years to weeks. Antiverse is combining machine learning and phage display techniques to model antibody-antigen interactions. The current version of the platform uses next generation sequencing and AI to provide diverse antibody candidates for any given target.

“Our investors recognize the potential of our AI-powered antibody drug discovery platform to provide a breakthrough in the industry. With our technology, it will be possible to develop drugs for difficult targets and ultimately reduce drug discovery timescales from years to weeks. In addition to platform development, the funding will enable us to invest in facilities and recruitment; we are grateful to our investors and Innovate UK for their continued support,” Antiverse Chief Executive Officer Murat Tunaboylu said in a statement.

To support development of the technology, a new laboratory will be built in Cardiff. Investors in the seed funding round include Development Bank of Wales, Angel Co-Investment Fund, Tensor Ventures, Wren Capital, Ed Parkinson, Cambridge Angels, and SyndicateRoom. A portion of the capital raised will be used to build a laboratory in Cardiff, Wales, and expand the technical team through recruitment of specialist machine learning engineers, laboratory scientists and structural biologists.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Check-Cap – Israel’s Check-Cap announced it received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the company’s Investigational New Device Exemption (IDE) application, permitting Check-Cap to begin a pivotal study of C-Scan, which is intended for candidates who are at risk for colorectal cancer and are poor candidates for a colonoscopy.

Navigo Proteins GmbH – Protein engineering company Navigo, which is based in Germany, announced the successful implementation of a customized affinity chromatography resin into the purification process of Eleva GmbH’s Complement- Factor H, CPV-101, for its coming clinical development. Using Navigo’s proprietary platform, an affinity chromatography resin has been developed, which purifies enzymatically active Factor H efficiently from moss cell culture medium. The resin delivers a robust, scalable, and predictable Factor H downstream process, thereby addressing inherent challenges of conventional purification processes. The validation for clinical and commercial resin supply to support CPV-101 future development path is ongoing.

Italfarmaco Group – Italy’s Italfarmaco and Switzerland-based Luye Pharma Switzerland AG entered into an agreement under which Italfarmaco receives exclusive rights to commercialize Rivastigmine Multi-Day Transdermal Patch (Rivastigmine MD) in four European countries. Rivastigmine MD, developed by Luye Pharma, is used to treat mild to moderate dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease and is currently in the final registration phase of marketing approval in Europe. Under the terms of the agreement, Italfarmaco gains the exclusive rights to commercialize Rivastigmine MD in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Greece. Italfarmaco will also have a preferred right to market Rivastigmine MD in Chile and Vietnam. Italfarmaco will make an upfront payment to Luye Pharma upon the signing of the agreement as well as additional payments when certain sales milestones are achieved. Luye Pharma is also eligible to receive royalties from Italfarmaco. No further financial details are being disclosed.

Novartis – Swiss pharma giant Novartis announced new data that reinforce the transformational benefit of Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec), a one-time gene therapy treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The overall safety profile remains favorable following presymptomatic treatment, in the long-term follow-up period from clinical studies and in the real-world setting. These data were presented during the 2021 Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Virtual Clinical and Scientific Conference. Children treated with Zolgensma presymptomatically in the Phase III SPR1NT trial achieved age-appropriate motor milestones within the World Health Organization window of normal development – including sitting, standing and walking – were able to eat exclusively by mouth and did not require ventilatory support of any kind. There were no serious, treatment-related adverse events reported in SPR1NT. In addition, children identified via newborn screening enrolled in the RESTORE real-world registry were significantly less likely to receive more than one SMA therapy compared with those who were diagnosed clinically, Novartis said.

Medicago – Canada-based Medicago and GlaxoSmithKline launched the Phase III study of Medicago’s plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate in combination with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant, as part of the ongoing Phase II/III study. The companies began the Phase III portion of the study based in positive Phase II results. In parallel, Medicago has also initiated a feasibility study of a vaccine candidate to address the emerging COVID-19 variants. Medicago’s plant-derived vaccine candidate against COVID-19 uses Coronavirus-Like-Particle (CoVLP) technology with the vaccine composed of recombinant spike (S) glycoprotein expressed as virus-like-particles (VLPs) co-administered with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant. Two doses of 3.75 micrograms of CoVLP are administered 21 days apart. The vaccine candidate, in combination with the pandemic adjuvant, was granted Fast Track designation by the FDA on Feb. 17.

Versantis – Switzerland-based Versantis announced positive results from a Phase Ib clinical trial of VS-01 in decompensated liver cirrhosis. VS-01 was found to be safe and well tolerated in this first-in-human, single ascending and multiple dose study. VS-01 is a potentially life-saving, multi-organ support therapy that aims to reverse Acute-on-Chronic Liver Failure (ACLF) by enhancing the clearance of ammonia and other toxins from the body. The primary objective of the study was to evaluate the safety and tolerability of i.p.-administered VS-01 on top of standard of care in cirrhotic patients with ascites and mild hepatic encephalopathy following single and multiple intraperitoneal administrations. The secondary objectives were to gather preliminary PK, PD, and clinical efficacy data.

ProBioGen AG – Germany’s ProBioGen signed a licensing agreement with Sanofi that will allow the French company to integrate ProBioGen’s proprietary GlymaxX technology into their product development strategy for an undisclosed number of antibody candidates across several business units. GlymaxX enables a boost of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC), consequently leading to an elevated NK cell mediated killing activity of its target cells. The GlymaxX technology adds value to the products by significantly improving their potency and potentially reducing the overall clinical doses for patients. The unique advantage of the GlymaxX technology allows a single GlymaxX modified cell line to produce both, completely fucosylated and/or afucosylated antibodies and those with intermediate defined fucosylation levels. The technology can be easily integrated in newly developed or already existing cell lines of different host cell origins, which demonstrates its great flexibility.

FSD Pharma Inc. – Toronto’s FSD Pharma Inc. entered into a licensing agreement with Innovet Italia S.R.L. Innovet granted FSD a license to use ultramicronized-palmitoylethanolamide (or ultramicronized PEA) to develop FDA-approved veterinary drugs for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases in Canine and Feline (Dogs and Cats). In addition, the company announced the filing of its year-end results and provides corporate updates.

Axol Bioscience – U.K.-based Axol Bioscience and CENSO Biotechnologies, a cell biology CRO with focused expertise in iPSC-related technologies, today announced that the two companies have signed a merger agreement. The new entity will become a leading provider of product and service solutions in the iPSC-based neuroscience, immune cell, and cardiac modeling for drug discovery and screening markets. It will offer customers validated ready-to-use cell lines and a suite of services with broader expertise, robust functional data, and customization capabilities, all with shorter lead times.

CN Bio – Also based in the U.K., CN Bio, a leading developer of single and multi-organ microphysiological systems (MPS), announced the commercial launch of its new PhysioMimix organ on a chip Multi-Organ MPS. The next-generation platform combines CN Bio’s in vitro 3D liver model, whose phenotype and functions mimic that in vivo, with a range of other organs to more accurately recapitulate the multi-organ and systemic effects observed in humans. Demonstrating a key milestone in the Company’s mission to develop the most complete human ‘body-on-a-chip’ in the laboratory, the PhysioMimix OOC Multi-Organ MPS will provide advanced insights into the potential effects of novel therapeutics that were previously only achievable using animal models.

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