It’s Roundup Time! Immunotherapies, Gene Therapies and More …

September has launched with lots of fascinating biotech news! Try as we might, we can’t cover everything that is out there. So relax, have a warm drink, and check out what has happened over the last week. 

Collaborations

  • The German biotechs Velabs Therapeutics and alytas therapeutics have joined forces to develop immunotherapies that could treat obesity by targeting fat cells. 
  • The UK company Theragnostics has licensed PARP inhibitor drugs from AstraZeneca. Theragnostics has the goal of labelling these drugs with a radioactive chemical, which then can be imaged in the body to diagnose cancer. The company also has the option to use the radiolabeled drugs as therapies that accumulate in tumors and kill them with radiation while sparing healthy tissue. 
  • The Dutch biotech Batavia Biosciences has licensed mammalian cell lines that produce high yields of antibodies from the UK company Horizon Discovery. Batavia will use the technology to develop an antibody drug for the Zika virus in collaboration with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the company IDBiologics, both based in the US.

Fundraising

  • The Dutch company uniQure has raised €203M ($225M) through a public offering on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The money will help to fund the commercialization of uniQure’s phase III gene therapy for the rare blood disease hemophilia B. The offering will also finance a phase l/ll clinical trial of uniQure’s Huntington’s disease gene therapy, and the clinical development of other programs in conditions such as rare diseases.
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested €50M ($55M) in the German biotech company BioNTech to kickstart the preclinical development of immunotherapies for tuberculosis and HIV. BioNTech may receive up to a further €40M in grants from the collaboration to support the clinical development of the treatments.
  • The French biotech PathoQuest has raised €8M in a private round to fund the development of a metagenomic diagnostic test that can detect pathogens in a blood sample quickly without needing to culture the microbes first. This could help physicians select the best antibiotics for patients and reduce the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.
  • The French microbiome company LNC Therapeutics has raised €6.2M in investments and grants to finance the development of live bacterial treatments for obesity and metabolic diseases.
  • The French company TreeFrog Therapeutics has raised €3M in grants from the French government and the European Commission to help scale up the production of TreeFrog’s stem cell encapsulation technology, which makes the transport of stem cells easier by protecting them in capsules made of alginate, a component in seaweed.
  • The Swiss biotech Strekin has raised €2.6M (CHF 2.8M) in a Series A round to complete an ongoing phase III trial testing a drug gel that reduces inflammation in the cochlea in the inner ear. This drug is being developed to treat sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a condition for which there are no approved drugs.
  • The Swiss company Novaremed has raised €2.4M (CHF 2.6M) from private investors in preparation for a phase IIb trial of its small molecule drug for the treatment of chronic pain in diabetes. The drug is believed to work by blocking a protein called Lyn kinase that is important for the processing of pain.
  • The French biotech MedinCell has received an undisclosed sum from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the development of a treatment that could prevent HIV infection for several months after injection. The treatment consists of a drug that prevents HIV infection packaged in injectable gels that release the drug slowly over time. 

Scientific research

  • Dutch scientists have developed a peptide drug that could make pancreatic tumors more sensitive to chemotherapy by attacking a protein called integrin alpha 5, which forms part of a defensive wall around the tumor.

Image via E. Resko

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