Global Roundup: Newly-Launched AION Forms Startup in Israel


Less than one week after the launch of Amazon and big pharma-backed AION Labs, the AI-focused organization has partnered with Germany’s BioMedX to identify biomedical scientists and inventors to form a new startup at AION Labs’ headquarters in Rehovot, Israel.

The mission at AION Labs is to launch and back early-stage start-up teams focused on using AI and computational biology in drug discovery and development. AION will provide these start-ups with financial backing, as well as mentorship from seasoned professionals. The goal will be to help these start-ups develop new technologies that “meet the most acute and significant challenges in the pharmaceutical industry.” 

The AION startup team will be supported by the Israel Innovation Authority. In addition to Amazon, AION is backed by AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Teva. Recent advances in protein structure prediction, artificial intelligence algorithms, and increased availability of experimentally determined antigen-antibody structures present a unique opportunity for AI-driven antibody discovery.

“We are excited to extend our portfolio of career opportunities for talented academic researchers to Israel,” Christian Tidona, founder and managing director of the BioMed X Institute said in a statement. “Located in the heart of the ’startup nation,’ AION Labs is the perfect place for biomedical scientists from around the globe to learn how to become successful biotech entrepreneurs.”

Elsewhere around the globe:

Telix Pharmaceuticals – Australia’s Telix Pharmaceuticals Limited and Belgium-based SCK CEN, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, announced that the first of two cyclotrons has been removed from the company’s licensed radiopharmaceutical production facility in Brussels. Once the second cyclotron has been removed later this year, Telix will be able to formally commence the build-out of a new state-of-the-art facility for medical radioisotope production and drug product manufacturing.

H.E.L Group – U.K.-based H.E.L. Group released the latest version of its laboratory automation software, labCONSOL 1.2. The new functionality included in the update further enhances the intuitive user experience to increase lab productivity and efficiency, and facilitate process automation. labCONSOL 1.2 extends additional support to process safety, and battery testing end users, with tools that allow the progression of a test plan to be controlled. New integrated controls enable mid-experiment suspension, giving users the flexibility to pause and adjust ongoing processes without requiring the experiment to be terminated and restarted.

ASLAN Pharmaceuticals – Singapore’s ASLAN will host the first in a series of Key Opinion Leader (KOL) events on the emerging atopic dermatitis treatment landscape. The company will also provide a review of its recently announced, positive topline data from the Phase I study of ASLAN004 for the treatment of moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. ASLAN004 is a potential first-in-class monoclonal antibody that targets the IL-13 receptor that has the potential for a differentiated profile in terms of convenience, safety and efficacy.

ITM Isotope Technologies – Munich, Germany-based ITM Isotope Technologies Munich SE, a radiopharmaceutical biotech company, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore the development and industrial-scale production of Actinium-225, an extremely rare alpha-emitting radioisotope with heightened potential in precision oncology. Under the terms of the agreement, the organizations will collaborate on the development, manufacturing, and distribution pathways for the medical radioisotope. Further details of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Additionally, ITM Isotope forged an agreement with Clovis Oncology to supply that company with ITM’s therapeutic radioisotope no-carrier-added Lutetium-177 EndolucinBeta for use in the clinical development of FAP-2286, Clovis’ fibroblast activation protein (FAP)-targeting therapeutic candidate. FAP-2286 is the first peptide-targeted radionuclide therapeutic (PTRT) candidate directed against fibroblast activation protein undergoing clinical testing and is currently being investigated in the Phase I/II LuMIERE study for patients with advanced solid tumors. The agreement covers an initial period of five years.

Oryzon Genomics SA – Spain’s Oryzon initiated enrollment in its Phase IIb trial assessing vafidemstat, a selective inhibitor of the epigenetic target LSD1, in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients. The two primary independent objectives of the trial are a reduction of aggression and agitation and an overall improvement of BPD.

Check-Cap Ltd. – Based in Israel, Check-Cap announced the expansion of the manufacturing capacity for C-Scan, a preparation-free screening test to detect polyps that could lead to colorectal cancer. The significant expansion of the company's production line is intended to support its U.S. pivotal study, which expected to commence near the end of the first quarter of 2022.

Mesoblast Limited – Australia-based Mesoblast announced that results published in Bone Marrow Transplantation showed that children with steroid-refractory acute graft versus host disease (SR-aGVHD) and biomarkers predictive for highest mortality had 64% survival when treated with remestemcel-L compared with only 10% survival when treated with other available therapies, including ruxolitinib or other biologics. These data provide further support for the proposed anti-inflammatory mechanism of action of remestemcel-L and its immunomodulatory activity in patients with SR-aGVHD, resulting in improved survival outcomes, the company said.

Valneva SE – France-based Valneva announced positive topline results from the Phase III pivotal trial Cov-Compare of its inactivated, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001. The trial met its co-primary endpoints: VLA2001 demonstrated superiority against AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in terms of geometric mean titer for neutralization antibodies, as well as non-inferiority in terms of seroconversion rates at two weeks after the second vaccination in adults aged 30 years and older. T-cell responses analyzed in a sub-set of participants showed that VLA2001 induced broad antigen-specific IFN-gamma producing T-cells reactive against the S-, N- and M- protein.

Abivax SA – Also based in France, Abivax reported additional results from its Phase IIb induction study of once-daily oral 50mg ABX464 to treat ulcerative colitis. These new data from the ongoing maintenance trial emphasize ABX464’s capacity to maintain and further improve patient-outcomes over time, as well as its continued favorable safety and tolerability, the company announced.

Implandata Ophthalmic Products – Germany-based Implandata was selected as a Top 12 Health Techpreneur at the Healthcare Innovation World Cup. Out of more than 300 competitors, Implandata has been awarded as a leading breakthrough health care innovator and was invited to present its disruptive EYEMATE solution, an approved product for remote glaucoma care.

MeiraGTx Holdings – London-based MeiraGTx Holdings plc, a gene therapy company, will present three poster presentations at the European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ESGCT) 2021 Annual Congress. Presentations will provide information on two pre-clinical programs addressing inherited retinal diseases caused by mutations in KCNV2 and GUCY2D with data supporting the development of these viral vectors as gene therapies. A third presentation outlines MeiraGTx’s proprietary gene regulation platform demonstrating tight regulation of gene expression to high dynamic range in mammalian cells and precise regulation in vivo in response to dosing of an oral small molecule.

UPM Biomedical – Finland’s UPM Biomedical signed an agreement with Germany-based Cellbox Solutions for a unique live cell shipment solution. This plant-derived, animal-free transport technology for living cell and tissue cultures will allow shipping of live 3D cell assays between researchers and pharmaceutical companies. Combining UPM’s nanocellulose-based hydrogels and Cellbox’s portable CO2 incubators offers protection from mechanical stress to maintain cell activity during transportation. This allows the transport of even the most complex and sensitive cell cultures, while enabling easy recovery of the cells post-transport, the companies said in a statement.

COMPASS Pathways – U.K.-based COMPASS has been granted its fourth patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is COMPASS’s first patent with claims covering its Form A hydrate psilocybin. The new patent was granted with composition claims to an alternative crystalline psilocybin, pharmaceutical formulations containing crystalline psilocybin and methods of treating major depressive disorder with the crystalline psilocybin.

Genetic Analysis AS – Norway’s Genetic Analysis announced a Service Agreement with Eurofins ADME BIOANALYSES, a Contract Research Organization providing diverse services to the pharmaceutical industry in the fields of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and drug metabolism.

UCB – Belgium-based UCB announced a strategic out-licensing of Artificial Intelligence based fracture identification technology, BoneBot, to ImageBiopsy Lab to bring the new identification tool to clinical practice by 2023. The radiology AI solution will screen CT scans to detect the presence of "silent" or asymptomatic fractures in the spine which can otherwise go unrecognized and unreported.

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