April 1, 2017 (Vol. 37, No. 7)

Industry Watch: Alexandria Selects First Companies for New York Co-Working Space

Alexandria Real Estate Equities has selected its first member startup companies for the co-working space it plans to open in June within its urban campus for life science companies in New York.

The eight companies are among 20 to 25 that are expected to fill Alexandria LaunchLabs®. It will occupy 15,000 square feet at the Alexandria Center® for Life Science–New York City.

Among the eight are Torch Biosciences, a developer of biomarkers for autism and other CNS disorders; drug discovery companies Beagle Bioscience, ENB Therapeutics, and SevenGenes; personalized cancer gene therapy developer Chimeron Bio; medical device company Sonify Biosciences; and two undisclosed companies.

“We want to see really differentiated technologies. We want to see things that are really going to move the needle in bringing treatments to patients,” Jenna Foger, senior principal of science and technology at Alexandria Real Estate Equities and its strategic venture capital arm Alexandria Venture Investments, told GEN. “How they’re going to get there, and what types of technologies they’re developing, whether they’re preventive therapeutics or curative, we’re open to that spectrum.”

Alexandria LaunchLabs also seeks foundational intellectual property, a compelling business strategy, a strong management team, and a sound financing plan. More than 70 companies have applied for membership.

“About 80% or so are based on science coming out of New York academic medical institutions,” Foger said. ENB, for example, is based on technology developed at New York University School of Medicine; NYU is among the campus’ largest tenants. The other 20–25% are companies from across the country, and some spinouts from biopharma giants.

Membership starts at $1,995 per month for a lab bench in a shared suite and an office workstation in a shared office area.

Amenities include shared lab equipment; conference, huddle, and break rooms; full-service operations and management; IT and audiovisual services; open lounge and event spaces; café and breakout spaces; access to campus amenities and services, mentorship and strategic programs; networking with key stakeholders across Alexandria’s life-science networks, and access to seed capital.

“We really want to create a place—lab, office, full-service—to nurture companies and startups at their very earliest potential commercial stage,” Foger added. 

Discovery & Development: Sometimes, the Beauty of Stem Cells Is Skin Deep

Research on personalized therapies and regenerative medicine accounts for much of the growth of the cell-culture market. Although the part of this market that is focused on stem cells can be hard to differentiate from the parts that pertain to other cell types, market research firms still offer rough estimates.

Last year, when Markets and Markets projected that the global cell expansion market would reach $18.76 billion by 2021 (from a 2016 base of $8.34 billion), it noted that “the human cells segment is expected to account for the largest share of the global cell expansion [and] grow at the highest rate due to increasing research investments by public and private organizations.”

On a related topic, the same firm indicated that it expected the global cell isolation market to reach $7.89 billion by 2021 (from a 2016 base of $3.57 billion).

Challenges posed by stem cell culture for media and reagents were recently discussed in some detail by GEN’s Angelo DePalma, Ph.D., who noted that a standing challenge is the need to contrive culture conditions that can maintain pluripotency, prevent differentiation, and allow reproducible differentiation.

Recent deal-making in this space includes a licensing agreement between Bio-Techne and Multiclonal Therapeutics (MCT). Together, the companies will commercialize reagents and media systems in the research reagent field intended for cloning, propagating, and differentiating adult “ground-state” stem cells from healthy and diseased epithelial tissues.

Essentially, MCT’s technology will be developed into reagents and model systems suitable for the isolation of tissue-specific adult stem cells, as well as the creation of ex vivo models of epithelial organs. MCT technology preserves the ground state of the isolated stem cells by maintaining the regional specificity of cells isolated from closely associated but distinct regions of an organ, as well as the stable maintenance of disease epigenetics in stem cells isolated from inflammatory and cancer tissues.

Generating healthy and diseased tissues from adult stem cells offers a model to facilitate regenerative medicine research, drug screening and development, toxicology screening, biomarker discovery, and disease modeling.

Genomics & Proteomics: Collaborative Trio Sets Its Genomic Sights on Leukemia and Lymphoma

Earlier this year, at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Illumina provided information on a new, scalable high-throughput sequencing instrument—called NovaSeq—expected one day to enable a $100 genome, as well as insight into a key collaboration with IBM Watson Health to expand access to genome data interpretation by integrating Watson for Genomics into Illumina’s BaseSpace Sequence Hub and tumor sequencing process.

These separate and seemingly disparate announcements have now coalesced with the Munich Leukemia Laboratory (MLL), a state-of-the-art leukemia and lymphoma diagnostic and research laboratory based in Germany, recently announcing that it has partnered with Illumina and IBM Watson to build a new cognitive technology prototype that aims to help researchers improve leukemia treatment.

“We at MLL are excited to combine our data and knowledge, IBM’s cognitive computing tools, and Illumina’s new sequencing platform to create a new era of insights in leukemia biology that will also drive more personalized treatment strategies,” remarked Torsten Haferlach, M.D., co-founder and CEO of MLL.

The MLL will take advantage of the most powerful sequencer Illumina has ever launched—NovaSeq—to sequence samples from its biobank of more than 500,000 cases.

MLL researchers then plan to use Watson to help analyze the genomic data alongside other data sources. The project intends to include innovative testing processes such as automated phenotyping and genotyping including whole genome sequencing (WGS) and transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) in 5,000 cases.

“MLL’s strategic decision to create a future path for whole-genome sequencing to help promote better health outcomes, reflects one of Illumina’s key strategies to connect genomics to the everyday lives of those living with cancer,” stated Paula Dowdy, senior vice president and general manager, Illumina, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

The ultimate goal of this collaboration is to develop a Watson-based technology prototype that can help analyze genomic and phenotypic data alongside medical literature, guidelines, and study results, providing clinicians with information relevant to leukemia care.

“This research collaboration is indicative of the growing global market to create and implement new cognitive approaches to data-driven challenges for health systems that are increasingly overwhelmed by data,” concluded Bart de Witte, director of digital health at IBM.

Bioprocessing: Allergopharma Opens New Biopharmaceutical Production Facility

Allergopharma, Merck KGaA’s allergy business, opened a new biopharmaceutical production facility in Reinbek, near Hamburg, Germany.

‘‘By this €42 million investment, our company is supporting the Reinbek site in order to expand the allergies business on a global scale. The new production building is part of this global expansion, and will support our growing business in the allergy market place,” said Simon Sturge, chief operating officer, healthcare business sector, Merck KGaA.

“From a technology point of view, the new biopharmaceutical production [plant] is a quantum leap. It means an increase in supply safety for patients, a further improvement of product quality and future innovations towards improving therapy,” added Marco Linari, CEO of Allergopharma.

Allergopharma focuses on allergen immunotherapy (AIT) and produces preparations for the diagnosis and treatment of type I allergies such as allergic rhinitis (e.g., hay fever) or allergic asthma. AIT (which includes hyposensitization, desensitization, and allergy vaccination) is the only causal therapy option to treat allergies against unavoidable allergens, according to Linari.

The company offers high dosage, hypoallergenic, and standardized allergen-specific treatments (allergoids) for pollen and dust mite allergies. Allergopharma also produces diagnostic allergy tests.

The firm’s new biopharmaceutical factory covers 6,000 square meters. The entire glass-enclosed cleanroom, in which the company will manufacture its products, is located on the 2,000 square meter ground floor of the building.

Allergopharma’s new building includes entirely glass clean-rooms for the manufacture of products for causal treatment. Besides enclosing the cleanrooms, which are located on the ground floor, the new building houses technological operations, features a visitors’ foyer that has a view of the cleanrooms, and holds in reserve the potential to accommodate additional filling lines.

Molecular Diagnostics: HudsonAlpha Clinical Program Gleans Health Insights from the Genome

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is launching a clinical program for adults interested in gaining insights into their health and their responses to specific medications base on their genomic profile.

Insight Genome uses whole-genome sequencing to tell patients about their risks for developing specific medical conditions, or passing them onto their children, as well as their pharmacogenomics, with the goal of informing future healthcare decisions, the Institute said.

Insight Genome will be housed at HudsonAlpha’s campus, within the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine.

Would-be participants are required to have a physician referral to Smith Family Clinic, and be 19 years of age or older.

The clinical program includes an initial consultation and drawing of blood and saliva samples for testing. Insight Genome’s laboratory test looks at more than 1,600 genes associated with more than 1,200 medical conditions, including cancer and rare diseases.

Based on the test, Insight Genome offers patients a clinical report that becomes part of a patient’s medical record, as well as a pharmacogenomic report from Kailos Genetics; both must be ordered by a physician. Turnaround time is 90 days.

The clinical report will include information about genetic variants known to be linked to specific medical conditions. The report will be sent to the Smith Family Clinic, where a physician and genetic counselor will share results with patients.

The pharmacogenomic report contains information about 38 different genes, as well as medications impacted by those genetic changes. The report is sent to physicians for sharing with their patients. The cost of the Insight Genome is approximately $7,000, and includes the clinical whole genome and pharmacogenomics tests, as well as physician and genetic counselor visits and consultations at the Smith Family Clinic. The cost is not covered by insurance.

Patients also have the opportunity to participate in a research study program at HudsonAlpha and receive additional information about their genome and common disease, as well as traits of interest, the Institute said.

“One question that I am continually asked is when can I sequence my genome? We are now able to explore how whole genome sequencing can become transformative for clinical care, and also engage both physicians and patients,” Neil Lamb, Ph.D., HudsonAlpha vice president for educational outreach, said in a statement.

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