Global Roundup: BenevolentAI Takes on Dengue Fever in New Partnership

Biopharma and life sciences organizations from across the globe provide updates on their businesses and pipelines.

Dengue fever is one of the globe’s most prevalent infectious diseases, with an estimated 390 million infections each year in over 100 countries. London-based BenevolentAI, a clinical-stage artificial intelligence drug discovery company, partnered with the not-for-profit organization Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi) to tackle the infectious disease.

Benevolent will use its AI drug discovery platform to find potential biological targets and potential drug candidates that can prevent dengue infections from progressing to a severe form of the condition. The two companies will use artificial intelligence tools to better understand the underlying mechanisms involved in the infectious disease and identify targets or existing therapies that can be repurposed to use as a preventative measure. The most promising drug candidates identified in the joint research project will later be tested in clinical trials in collaboration with dengue-endemic country partners.

“With dengue spreading at a rapid pace, and climate change predicted to further intensify the impact and spread of the disease, it is all the more critical to accelerate research into new treatment options,” Anne Phelan, chief scientific officer at BenevolentAI said in a statement. “The global scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and BenevolentAI’s COVID-19 research, provided a clear example of how AI can help us respond to pressing global health challenges. BenevolentAI’s vast integrated knowledge graph coupled with our AI tools enable us to build a comprehensive representation of disease biology and accelerate the discovery of new treatments. Our partnership with the DNDi builds on this approach, with a goal to address urgent patient needs and help relieve pressure on overburdened health systems.”

According to the World Health Organization, dengue represents one of the top ten threats to global public health worldwide.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Biocytogen: Based in China, Biocytogen and CtM Biotech forged a collaboration agreement to jointly develop innovative antibody drugs against intracellular tumor-associated antigens. Biocytogen will be responsible for screening fully human antibodies against specific targets through its proprietary TCR-mimic antibody development platform. CtM Bio will use their proprietary T cell engager platform to co-develop T cell engagers targeting intracellular tumor-associated antigens.

Amoy Diagnostics: Also based in China, Amoy Diagnostics Co., Ltd. entered into a Master Collaboration Agreement with AstraZeneca. The companies will develop and commercialize AmoyDx assays that may cover any indication or biomarker for companion diagnostic (CDx) use with AstraZeneca medicines globally. The first order will be to co-develop a CDx to identify prostate cancer patients with Homologous Recombination Repair (HRR) gene mutations in China, the EU and Japan. The companies will also develop a CDx to identify breast cancer patients with BRCA gene mutations in the EU for Lynparza (olaparib). HRR and BRCA mutations are well-documented targets for PARP inhibitor treatment and are essential biomarkers that can inform potential treatment options, including a PARP inhibitor.

Clover Biopharmaceuticals: China’s Clover announced additional data from its Phase II/III SPECTRA trial that shows SCB-2019 (CpG 1018/Alum) provides significant incremental protection against COVID-19. The data was from a previously-infected participant population. The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Lancet Infectious Disease. This study evaluated the efficacy, safety, and reactogenicity of SCB-2019 in participants who had previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2 before vaccination. These data highlight that a single-dose or two-dose primary vaccination with SCB-2019 increased protection against COVID-19 following exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Aum Biosciences: Singapore-based Aum and South Korea-based Handok, Inc. and CMG Pharmaceutical announced that Phase I data for AUM-601 (CHC2014), a selective second-generation “Pan-TRK” Inhibitor, was presented in a poster presentation at the ESMO Targeted Anticancer Congress 2022. The presentation showed that AUM601 (CHC2014) was safe and well-tolerated. Based on PK profile and safety results, dosing levels were recommended for a Phase II study. A mid-stage study will be conducted to assess the efficacy and safety in patients with NTRK fusions.

Flexible Solutions International: FSI, which is based in Canada, is merging with California-based Lygos, Inc. The companies will integrate their complementary technology platforms and expand the portfolio of multi-functional organic acids. Over the past four years, Lygos and FSI have been leveraging Lygos’ proprietary fermentation technology platform to improve the performance of FSI’s biodegradable, water-soluble cleaning and water treatment solutions.

Revive Therapeutics: Toronto-based Revive Therapeutics published a new article assessing the impact of bucillamine on antibody responses to COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in Japanese patients with rheumatic diseases. The article described that antibody levels were significantly lower in the groups treated with TNF inhibitor (TNFi) with methotrexate (MTX), abatacept, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), MMF or mizoribine (MMF/MZR) combined with calcineurin inhibitor (CNI), and rituximab or cyclophosphamide (RTX/CPA) compared with those treated with sulfasalazine and/or Bucillamine or CNI. The newly published study further validates the potential of Bucillamine, an oral drug with anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, in the treatment course for COVID-19, the company said.

AEterna Zentaris: Also based in Toronto, Aeterna announced it received a patent from the European Patent Office for macimorelin, a ghrelin agonist used to diagnose growth hormone deficiency in adults. Stimulated growth hormone levels are measured in blood samples after oral administration of macimorelin. It’s the only oral diagnostic for adult growth hormone deficiency approved by the European Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

XORTX: Calgary-based XORTX received Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) status in the European Union. SME status provides reduced costs to the company as it initiates discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration and EMA regarding the upcoming XRX-OXY-301 Phase III registration trial for XRx-008 and other clinical programs.

Mimetas: Netherlands-based Mimetas, a partner in the secured Oncode-PACT (Preclinical Accelerator for Cancer Treatments) initiative secured €325 million from the Dutch National Growth Fund. The consortium will develop cancer drug candidates faster and bring them to patients sooner with this investment. As a partner in Oncode-PACT, Mimetas will develop the next generation of patient-specific cancer organoid models that include immune cells, blood vessels, and other essential cell types to drive novel cancer drug discovery and development. The goal of Oncode-PACT is to create a state-of-the-art drug development infrastructure to innovate the cancer drug development process itself.

Achiko AG: Based in Switzerland, Achiko AG announced the completion of an equity agreement with RiverFort Global Opportunities PCC Limited for up to $10.5 million. These funds will be used to finance the production of AtameX in Indonesia. Additionally, Achiko signed a marketing and sales agreement with Pengurus Wilayah Nahdlatul Ulama DKI Jakarta for the delivery of aptamer-based diagnostics. PWNU intends to promote frequent testing to all of its members with this collaboration, contributing to the Indonesian government’s efforts to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic through its Covid-19 management program.

InvestChile: The pharmaceutical industry in Chile is growing. InvestChile, the government’s investment promotion agency, along with Public Health Institute, has launched a new e-book that answers questions potential investors may have about the country and its life sciences ecosystem. The e-book shows that Chile’s pharmaceutical industry moves around the US $1.8 billion, equivalent to 0.73% of national GDP, and has a positive impact on other sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, commerce, and transportation. It also generates more than 68,000 formal jobs per year.