Category Archives: Neuroscience

Six new startups win funding and expert support from Bayer

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

Changing the experience of health: that’s the focus of the six startups which the Bayer G4A team has included in the Accelerator program this year.

The young companies came out ahead of more than 1,800 competitors from 100 countries.

They now have 100 days in which to intensively drive the further development of their products and solutions with expertise and investment from Bayer. The company will provide them with offices in Berlin, pharmaceutical executives and industry experts as mentors and EUR 50,000 in funding for each project.

The startups that have applied are developing digital solutions that cover the entire value chain within healthcare. Also this year, a patient jury was asked to rank startups according to the impact that their solutions would have on patient experience.

This year’s winners are:
• Agamon (Israel, GB): A healthcare intelligence platform that can be used to compile and structure health-related data from various sources in order to derive new information. www.agamon.io
• Cyclica (Canada): A cloud platform that aims to use artificial intelligence and biophysics to accelerate drug development. www.cyclicarx.com
• KinAptic (USA): An accelerated learning system for VR stroke rehabilitation using electric stimulation that analyses and detects neural signals to stimulate nerves in stroke patients. www.kinaptic.com
• OME (GB): Personalised health coaching that uses extensive data analyses to compile individualized health programs (nutrition, sleep, physical activity) in order to prevent disease. www.ome.health
• S-There Technologies (Spain): A smart device that analyses health data through urine in the toilet and gives patients insights into their health. https://s-there.com/
• Zencorlabs (Germany): A smartphone software and device that uses artificial intelligence to warn patients of heart failure.

Six years ago, Bayer started cooperating with startups in the healthcare sector through the G4A program headed by Eugene Borukhovich, he said, “It’s incredible to see the tremendous impact that some of our startups have had in the industry. I’m impressed to see the maturity and significance of their innovative solutions. Through the Accelerator program, I’m convinced we will be able to make a significant contribution to truly change the experience of health as we know it. We will continue to put people at the centre of their health and care every single day.”

Dieter Weinand, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and head of the Pharmaceuticals Division commented, “Digital solutions are essential to driving innovation in an evolving healthcare environment. Bayer is seeking to apply them across the pharmaceutical value chain in order to detect diseases at an earlier stage, to develop medicines faster, and to deliver individual treatments with a meaningful outcome for patients. In this endeavour, we benefit immensely from collaborations and the exchange of knowledge and skills with innovative startups.”

SOURCE: www.pharmafield.co.uk/pharma_news

Roche SMA drug shines in study as costly new therapies advance

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

A drug being co-developed by Roche to treat spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) helped improve development scores in babies with the genetic disease, a study released on Monday showed, as the race heats up for therapies destined to be among the drug industry’s most expensive.

PTC Therapeutics, which struck a licensing deal with Roche in 2011 for its SMA program, said more than 90 percent of babies with severe Type 1 SMA given the RG7916 drug achieved a greater than four-point increase in a test to measure their neuromuscular progress six months after treatment began.

PTC shares, which are listed on the Nasdaq, rose as much as 30 percent.

The companies hope their medicine, also known as risdiplam, will be approved to take on rival drug Spinraza from Biogen, which sells for $750,000 for the first year of therapy and about $375,000 annually after that.

Novartis is also quickly advancing in the SMA field with its $8.7 billion acquisition this year of U.S.-based Avexis that is working on a gene therapy for the disorder.

Analysts from Barclays project Novartis’s one-time treatment could run to $1.25 million per patient.

“We are delighted that up to 6.5-fold increase of protein production has translated into clinical impact for these babies,” PTC Chief Executive Stuart Peltz said in a statement about the RG7916 study, adding no babies required a tracheostomy or permanent ventilation since the study began, and no baby lost his or her ability to swallow.

SMA is an often-deadly genetic neuromuscular disorder caused by a missing or defective gene that normally produces a protein needed for development of motor neurons in the spinal cord. This leads to muscle wasting. Many babies with the severest form of the disorder die, while others never stand or walk.

Barclays analyst Emmanuel Papadakis expects that if Roche and PTC’s data holds up on RG7916 with regulators, it could become a fierce competitor to Spinraza, now the only licensed SMA therapy.

Cowen analysts also said on Monday they view PTC’s update as very encouraging for approval — and for competitiveness versus Spinraza, which is administered into the spine about four times a year. Roche’s and PTC’s drug is taken orally.

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan also has high hopes for his own newly acquired SMA treatment, saying in April after the Swiss company bought Avexis that its gene therapy has “multi-billion dollar peak sales potential”.

SOURCE: www.pmlive.com/pharma_news

Prothena guts workforce by more than half, after trial failure

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

Prothena Therapeutics has acted drastically by slashing staff numbers by more than half, after the failure of two pivotal trials for its lead candidate.

The company subsequently ditched NEOD001, when trials revealed that placebo treatment outperformed the drug candidate in the treatment of AL amyloidosis.

The reorganisation sees 63 positions cut away from the Dublin-based company, representing a shedding of 57% of the entire staff at the company.

As is usually the case, the process was necessitated to stymie cash losses during 2018 – it projected its estimated net cash burn for the year to be $40 million to $50 million, driven by a net loss of $170 million to $185 million.

Luckily for the biotech, it’s had some backers that were betting that its work would produce results and so estimates that it still have a relatively healthy $421 million in cash to end the year on.

One notable backer is renowned UK investor, Neil Woodford, who had to defend his investment in biotech in a blog post immediately after the trial failures were announced – pointing out strengths from within the Prothena’s pipeline and suggesting its partnership with Roche was one reason to keep faith with the biotech.

In the announcement regarding its restructuring, Prothena followed suit, with Gene Kinney, President and Chief Executive Officer of Prothena, saying: “As we move forward, we have the resources to support the advancement of our pipeline through meaningful milestones and we will focus on developing neuroscience programs that we believe have a potential to offer significant benefit to patients. This includes our two clinical-stage programs PRX002/RG7935, currently in Phase 2 development in the PASADENA study in patients with early Parkinson’s disease, and PRX004, which recently initiated a Phase 1 study in patients with ATTR amyloidosis.”

PRX002/RG7935 is both being developed in collaboration with Roche and there will be significant hopes placed on this candidate to pull the biotech out of a tricky spot; however, with the treatment being for patients with Parkinson’s disease, it’s a fairly risky bet given the dearth of disease-modifying treatments for the condition.

SOURCE: www.pharmafile.com/news/517476

ABPI expert urges to find new ‘blockbuster treatments’ for brain tumors

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

With the Government set to invest an additional £20 million into the research, diagnosis and development of treatments for brain tumours, we need to talk more about how we are going to find the next blockbuster treatments for these devastating diseases.

Nearly 11,500 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year in the UK with fewer than 15% surviving beyond 10 years. This week’s announcement from the from the Department of Health and Social Care – following the death of Dame Tessa Jowell – that they would be doubling investment for brain cancer research to £40 million is a welcome commitment to helping achieve a goal our industry shares: finding innovative new treatments and cures for these diseases.

The science is advancing in laboratories here in the UK and around the world, funded and supported by charities, universities and the pharmaceutical industry, collectively we are working to fight back against this terrible disease.

Among the 7,000 medicines currently being developed by the global pharmaceutical industry, there are 58 medicines in the pipeline for brain tumours, including gliomas. Companies are actively working to find better ways to speed up medicines development to get treatments to patients sooner.

In her speech to the House of Lords in January, Dame Tessa Jowell talked candidly about her glioblastoma diagnosis and called for greater collaboration in the fight against cancer. She also talked about the speeding up of drug trials by testing more than one at a time, saying: “I am not afraid, but I am fearful that this new and important approach may be put into the ‘too difficult’ box.”

The type of clinical trials Tessa Jowell talked about have many different names: adaptive randomisation, drop-the-loser, adaptive dose-finding, adaptive seamless and the list goes on.

The one thing they all have in common is flexibility. In trials like this – that we call adaptive design clinical trials – researchers can see how patients are responding to treatments and then change or stop parts of the trial in real time.

When used appropriately, trials like this may improve efficiency, reduce cost, maximize information gained and minimize risk to the patients and sponsors. Ultimately, drug development can be accelerated so that the right treatments can be delivered rapidly to the right patients. The UK is seen as a pioneer of innovative clinical trials and this involves collaboration between academia, the NHS, industry and medical research charities –  we must ensure we keep it that way in the future.

The issue is that these clinical trial types are not easy to design, plan or execute. An adaptive design will not rescue a poorly planned trial or ineffective treatment.

We need to make sure the regulatory authorities in the UK are not seen as a barrier to innovation; the MHRA and HRA are open to discussion and we need to encourage researchers and pharmaceutical companies to start conversations with them early in the process of planning an innovative clinical trial.

We think that adaptive design clinical trials could be the solution to speeding up the research and development of not only brain tumor treatments, but for all sorts of diseases. Research into small or rare patient populations could really benefit from these trials since they help us quickly rule out the drugs or drug combinations that aren’t working and give more patients the option to contribute to research and clinical trials.

We’re not alone. In February, the Department of Health and Social Care published their brain tumor research report which stated that, because brain tumors are one of the areas that have small patient populations, we need to think differently about how we conduct clinical trials and incorporate innovative trial designs.

The report provided practical recommendations for how we can work collaboratively to make quicker progress in this area. The next steps are to build on the UK’s existing strengths, ensure we have access to researchers with the right skills, and make sure that the right infrastructure is in place for us to make really make progress in this area.

Alongside their funding announcement, we welcome the Government’s commitment this week to accelerate the use of adaptive design trials. When used appropriately, drug development can be accelerated so that the right treatments can be delivered rapidly to the right patients – and that’s where the real benefit lies.

As we look to the future of cutting-edge research and development for blockbuster treatments, we know we need to make the case for innovative clinical trial design, talk more about the amazing science our researchers, companies and NHS are pioneering and encourage them to have open conversations with the UK regulators to ensure that innovative clinical research is safe and effective.

Together, we won’t rest until devastating brain tumours are a thing of the past.

SOURCE: www.news-medical.net/news

Celgene bucks trend to strengthen neuroscience pipeline

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

Celgene has gone against industry movement to back out of the neuroscience area by putting down a potential $2.2 billion to gain options on three drug candidates held by Prothena.

The deal sees Celgene pay $100 million up front, alongside buying $50 million in shares of Prothena, with milestone payments on the three drugs potentially racking up to a total payment of $2.2 billion.

Whether Prothena will see anything of this money depends on how well each clinical candidate performs in Phase 1 trials.

The neuroscience area has not been blessed with a huge amount of good news of late, with Pfizer pulling out of the space and a raft of Alzheimer’s drugs flopping. Celgene backing the area as a long-term investment is welcome news, particularly in regards to Alzheimer’s research, with fears it could begin to flag after so many failures.

One of the candidates is a protein that targets tau. The build-up of tau protein in the brain is one hypothesis about how best to treat the degeneration linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

Prothena commented in the press release that it has “identified antibodies targeting novel epitopes on the tau protein with the ability to block misfolded tau from binding to cells and to inhibit cell-to-cell transmission, preventing downstream functional toxic effects.”

This could be of huge interest, after a number of the other major alterantive hypothesis, amyloid-targeting Alzheimer’s treatments, failed to show efficacy in trials.

The other named target was the protein, TDP-43, which is associated with amytrophic lateral sclerosis and dementia. There is one other protein that Prothena has chosen not to name as being a target, though this is still within the neuroscience space.

“Prothena has a legacy of innovation in neuroscience and a team with a deep understanding of biological approaches that target protein misfolding disorders. Our collaboration leverages each company’s core expertise in protein homeostasis and protein clearance to target proteins that are the underlying cause of many neurodegenerative and orphan diseases. The programs we have chosen to collaborate on have the potential to provide foundational assets from which we can build new therapeutic approaches to these currently untreatable neurological disorders” said Richard Hargreaves, PhD, Corporate Vice President Neuroscience and Imaging for Celgene.

Should Celgene choose to take any of these candidates further than Phase 1, it will be responsible for all global clinical development and commercialisation. Prothena will, in return, receive $80 million per candidate picked up.

SOURCE: www.pharmafile.com/news/516844