GeneOnline’s Weekly News Highlights: Nov 20-Nov 24

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GeneOnline’s editorial team has compiled a digest of top international biotechnology and healthcare news of the week to help readers keep abreast of global biomedical industry updates.

Related article: Advancing the Frontiers of Cell and Gene Therapy – An Interview with Dr. Shin Kawamata

Astellas and Pfizer’s Drug Receives FDA Approval as Treatment for High-Risk Prostate Cancer Recurrence

Astellas Pharma Inc. and Pfizer Inc. have recently achieved a milestone with the U.S. FDA granting approval for a supplemental New Drug Application for XTANDI® (enzalutamide). With the fifth approval from the agency since August 2012, Xtandi becomes the first and only FDA-approved androgen receptor signaling inhibitor for treating non-metastatic castration-sensitive prostate cancer (nmCSPC) exhibiting biochemical recurrence at high risk for metastasis (high-risk BCR). The approval of Xtandi offers a promising therapeutic option for prostate cancer survivors experiencing distressing recurrence, providing hope to both patients and caregivers.

Australia to Unlock the Power of Genomics with $66 Million Funding for Research

The federal government of Australia has recently announced its plan to unlock the power and potential of personalized medicine with $66 million for genomics research into a number of serious diseases and common chronic conditions. Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF)’s $500 million Genomics Health Futures Mission will provide up to $3 million to 25 projects covering a variety of medical fields including diagnosis of rare genetic diseases, autoimmune disorders, and neonatal epilepsy, identification of high-risk glaucoma patients, establishment of a genetic registry for Parkinson’s patients, as well as integration of genomics and AI in order to improve the success of in vitro fertilization.

SK Bioscience and Hilleman Laboratories Join Forces for Ebola Vaccine Development

SK Bioscience, a Korean pioneering biotech company, has recently forged a development licensing agreement with Singapore-based Hilleman Laboratories. This collaboration aims to propel the joint development of a second-generation Zaire Ebola virus vaccine, with a focus on enhancing production processes and improving thermostability. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) poses a severe threat due to its rapid progression with a nearly 50% mortality rate. The Zaire Ebola virus strain, responsible for numerous outbreaks, has been a focal point for vaccine development. The collaboration between Hilleman Laboratories and SK Bioscience signifies a major step in addressing the urgent need for effective vaccines against the devastating EVD.

BeiGene to Expand Oncology Pipeline Through ENSEM Therapeutics Partnership

On November 21, BeiGene announced its acquisition of an exclusive global license for an Investigational New Drug (IND) application-ready oral cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (CDK2) inhibitor from Ensem Therapeutics (ENSEM). In accordance with the terms outlined in the agreement, ENSEM is set to receive an initial upfront payment. Furthermore, the company stands to qualify for supplementary payments contingent upon the successful attainment of specific developmental, regulatory, and commercial milestones, amounting to a cumulative sum of up to $1.33 billion, along with structured royalty payments.

Novel Hydrogel Delivery System Could Reduce Daily Diabetes Injections to 3 Times a Year

Teaming up with Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk, a research team at Stanford University recently developed an innovative drug delivery system that utilizes an injectable biomimetic hydrogel carrier along with a GLP-1 receptor agonist, a commonly used medication for both weight loss and blood glucose regulation, to slowly release the drug in experimental rats, extending the duration of drug action to approximately 6 weeks. With the research findings published on November 21 in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, the team believes this novel approach may revolutionize the treatment of type 2 diabetes by allowing patients who would otherwise require daily or weekly injections to do so only once every four months, making it easier for them to comply with their doctor’s instructions and improving their health outcomes.

Merck to Acquire Caraway Therapeutics for Expanding its Neurodegenerative Disease Pipeline

Merck (known as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada) and Caraway Therapeutics, Inc. announced on November 21 that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire Caraway for a total potential consideration of up to $610 million, including an undisclosed upfront payment as well as contingent milestone payments. Caraway is a preclinical biopharmaceutical company pursuing innovative approaches for treating genetically defined neurodegenerative and rare diseases. The Cambridge-based company is developing novel, small-molecule therapeutics for the treatment of genetically defined neurodegenerative and rare diseases.

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