BioWatch: Sanaria wins $3M to develop malaria vaccine
Rockville company supported by NIH grant
Sanaria has won a three-year, $3 million phase 2 Small Business Research Innovation grant from the National Institutes of Health to further develop its malaria vaccine.
The money will support research by scientists at the Rockville company and its partner, Columbia University, according to Sanaria information. The new grant continues earlier NIH-supported efforts at Sanaria and Columbia to develop genetically modified strains of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum that do not cause disease, but stimulate protective immunity when administered as a live, whole parasite malaria vaccine.
"There is considerable excitement about whole parasite malaria vaccines, and research towards developing genetically modified strains for such vaccines is at the cutting edge of this field," said Christian Loucq, director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative with PATH-Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, in a statement.
The parasites have been weakened by exposure to radiation and confer high-level protection against malaria when introduced by the bite of infected mosquitoes, according to Sanaria. These parasites invade host tissues, but cannot complete differentiation and do not replicate or cause disease.
"Sanaria is uniquely positioned at this time to expand the pipeline of candidate sporozoite vaccines to include vaccines based on precisely gene-altered parasites that are highly potent in inducing protective immunity against malaria and are unable to cause disease," said Stephen L. Hoffman, Sanaria's founder and chief scientist, in the statement.
In other Maryland bioscience industry news:
OpGen has raised $11.9 million of a $15.7 million equity offering, according to a regulatory filing.
The privately held Gaithersburg company provides DNA molecular diagnostics products and services.
An H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine being developed by Novavax exceeded immunogenicity criteria at all dose levels in a phase 2 clinical trial, according to data the Rockville company presented this month at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva.
The study of the virus-like particle vaccine involved more than 3,000 subjects in Mexico.
"The data indicate that our ... vaccine was well-tolerated and generated robust immunogenicity at all dose levels, including the 5mcg dose," said Gregory Glenn, Novavax's chief medical officer, in a statement. "Novavax [virus-like particle vaccines] are unique as they are made in a non-egg-based, recombinant manufacturing system that produces particles resembling the influenza virus but which renders them more immunogenic than simple recombinant vaccines."
Two Montgomery County biotechs were named among the top tech innovators for 2011 by MDB Capital Group.
RegeneRx of Rockville and GenVec of Gaithersburg were included on the "Best and Brightest" innovators list of 150 companies. The companies ranked in the 90th percentile for technology leadership among more than 1,500 companies with U.S. patents granted, as rated by MDB's intellectual property database. The rankings comprise companies trading below $500 million in market value.
"Our research has shown that this elite group of companies demonstrating above average [database] metrics ... have significantly outperformed their publicly traded peers," Christopher Marlett, CEO of MDB, said in a statement. "In addition, companies in this group have demonstrated higher margins and more sustained growth."
RegeneRx is developing a novel therapeutic peptide, thymosin beta 4, for tissue and organ protection, repair and regeneration, with possible applications for heart and central nervous system diseases.
GenVec is working on several products, including treatments for cancer, hearing and balance disorders, and foot-and-mouth disease, plus a malaria vaccine.
BioSurface Engineering Technologies of Rockville has launched a pilot clinical study in Canada of its Amplex bone graft substitute device to facilitate foot and ankle fusion surgery.
The device also is being investigated in lumbar spine fusion with about 35 patients in pilot clinical studies in the U.S. and Canada, according to a company statement.
The new study expected to enroll 24 subjects at three centers compares Amplex with the current popular treatment of autograft taken from either the iliac crest of the hip or from the tibia. So far, six subjects have entered the study and completed surgery.
"The promising early clinical results with our Amplex device in lumbar fusion led us to begin investigation in other surgical procedures where surgeons and patients seek an effective alternative to the painful harvesting of bone graft from a second surgical site," CEO Tom Roueche said in the statement.
Accelovance of Rockville, which provides clinical research services to the bioscience industry, reported its sixth year of continued revenue growth.
Last year, the privately held company, which did not disclose specific revenues, won contracts for two phase 3 rescue studies; several contracts with biotechs launching phase 1 and 2; and new relationships with government-funded sponsors, according to a company statement.
Accelovance also won a second, consecutive Vaccine Industry Excellence Best CRO Award from the World Vaccine Congress.
"The past 12 months have been remarkable, with 30 percent top line growth over last year," CEO Steve Trevisan said in the statement. Also, the company's work force grew 15 percent last year, adding 28 workers, according to spokeswoman Angie Wing, with a similar increase expected this year.
The company also said it will expand its services to oncology, cardiovascular and cell/gene therapy.
Accelovance also has a wholly owned subsidiary that provides regulatory consulting and CRO services in China.
VIRxSYS reported it has been issued two U.S. patents for its RNA platform technology for reprogramming and repairing genes to create, increase or change protein expression.
The patents cover using the technology on a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic applications, including treating heart disease and hemophilia A, according to a statement from the privately held Gaithersburg company.
"The issuance of these patents is another demonstration of our leadership in the development of RNA-based therapies for the treatment of serious human diseases," CEO Riku Rautsola said in the statement. The company soon will launch "a non-human primate study to test the ability of our lead clinical candidate to raise serum apoA-I levels, leading to an increase in HDL" cholesterol.