Start-Up Previews (05/2008)
A preview of the emerging health care companies profiled in the current issue of Start-Up. This month's profile group, "A Brighter Outlook for Cystic Fibrosis Drugs," features profiles of APT Pharmaceuticals, Aridis, and BioMarck Pharmaceuticals. Plus these Start-Ups Across Health Care: Cannasat, Nanobiotix, Reveal Sciences, and Vertebration.
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BioMarck Pharmaceuticals is studying the role of the MARCKS protein (myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate) in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diseases like asthma and cystic fibrosis. In each of these diseases, excessive amounts of mucus are secreted, which leads to obstruction of the lung airways. Experiments in mice showed that inhibiting the protein led to decreased mucus secretion, reduced inflammation in the lungs, and improvements in lung air flow.
When Novartis made clear its intention to acquire Chiron in 2005, a potentially important therapy for lung transplant patients was squeezed out by a numbers game. The drug candidate was an inhaled version of the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, and in a trial it had dramatically improved survival in lung transplant patients. Now, APT Pharmaceuticals takes over where Novartis left off, and it's preparing for a Phase III trial of the lung transplant drug.
Aridis Pharmaceuticals stabilizes proteins and other complex biological products, which typically must be refrigerated by encasing them in glassy matrices composed of sugar molecules that shield them from environmental stress. Recent studies reveal that high-frequency molecular vibrations that occur in the matrix can be transmitted to these packaged proteins, leading to changes in protein structure and loss of activity or, in the case of a vaccine, making them invisible to the immune system. To counter this, Aridis uses plasticizers to improve the formulations of existing drugs and vaccines.