Weekly Quick Hits (Greater Philadelphia) – Week of January 23, 2023

By Mark Terry, Alex Keown, and Sarah Ellinwood

The Greater Philadelphia area, sometimes dubbed “Cellicon Valley”, has a rich and growing biopharma and life sciences research environment. Here’s a look at some of this week’s top life sciences stories from the region.


Helius Medical Technologies Announces Preliminary Q4 and 2022 Results  

Newton, Pa.-based Helius Medical Technologies reported preliminary, unaudited results from the fourth quarter of 2022 and the full year. The company projects revenue for the quarter of $275,000 to $285,000, an increase of about 40% over the third quarter. This is related to the U.S. commercial launch of PoNS for multiple sclerosis in the second quarter. Full year 2022 revenue is expected to range from $780,000 to $790,000, an increase of approximately 50% over 2021. Helius expects $14.5 million in cash as of September 30, 2022.

BriaCell Therapeutics Plans to Investigate Alleged Illegal Trading

BriaCell Therapeutics, a West Vancouver, BC (Canada) company with facilities in Philadelphia, announced plans to investigate alleged illegal trading activity. BriaCell thinks individuals or companies participated in manipulative or illegal trading practices that artificially hurt their share price.

Orchestra BioMed Debuts on the Nasdaq

New Hope, Pa.-headquartered Orchestra BioMed began trading on January 27 on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol OBIO. This followed the closing of a combination with Health Sciences Acquisitions Corporation 2. The now publicly traded company focuses on hypertension and artery disease.

In the Clinic

Tevogen Bio Announced Positive Topline Data from it COVID-19 Study

Warren, NJ-based Tevogen Bio announced positive topline results from its proof-of-concept clinical study of TVGN 489. The drug is Tevogen’s first clinical product of its precision T-cell therapy platform for the treatment of acute high-risk COVID-19 patients. TVGN 489 is a genetically unmodified, off-the-shelf, allogeneic cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocyte (CTL) product with precise targets across the SARS-CoV-2 genome, not just the Spike protein. The trial was performed at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Verrica Pharmaceuticals Resubmits NDA for VP-102 for Molluscum Contagiosum

Verrica Pharmaceuticals, based in Westchester, Pa.,  resubmitted the New Drug Application (NDA) for VP-102 for the treatment of molluscum contagiosum (molluscum) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the fourth time the company has submitted the NDA. Previous rejections have related to problems with the company’s contract research organization

Baudax Bio Announces Positive Outcome of Interim Analysis of Phase II Randomized Trial for BX1000

Malvern, Pa.-based Baudax Bio reported positive results from its first interim analysis in a Phase II trial of BX1000 for neuromuscular blockade (NMB) in patients undergoing elective surgery. BTX1000, combined with the company’s reversal agent BX3000, is designed to offer precise control the timing of neuromuscular control in surgical patients. Of the 20 patients analyzed to date, all hit the criteria for Good or Excellent intubating conditions at 60 seconds.

Annovis Bio’s Phase III Parkinson’s Trial on Track

Berwyn, Pa.-based Annovis Bio provided an update on its ongoing Phase III trial of buntanetap for Parkinson’s disease. The drug inhibits production of multiple neurotoxic proteins associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Based on current enrollment, Annovis expects to have enough patients who received two months of treatment for an interim analysis in the second quarter of 2023.

Research Roundup

Thomas Jefferson Researchers ID Neuronal Molecule that Makes Prostate Cancer More Aggressive

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University discovered a neuronal molecule that drives prostate cancer to progress into an aggressive form, neuroendocrine prostate cancer. Lucia R. Languino, Ph.D., senior author, professor in the department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Cancer Biology at TJU says it “was a big discovery.” aVb3 integrin expression in prostate cancer cells increased expression of Nogo receptor 2 (NgR2), a known marker of neuroendocrine prostate cancer.

CHOP Researchers Develop Tool that Reduces Errors in Stem Cell Transplant Reporting

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) researchers developed a custom-built application to automate determination of engraftment, a key outcome after hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). The application is designed to replace a manual process and at the same time significantly improve accuracy of reported hematopoietic cell transplant engraftments. Described recently in the journal Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, the technique allowed an embedded informatics team to quickly build and implement clinical applications.

Penn Study: Head Injury Doubles Mortality Rate Long-Term

Research from the University of Pennsylvania reported that adults with any head injury during a 30-year study period had a doubled mortality rate than those without any head injury. And mortality rates in people with moderate or severe head injuries were almost three times higher. The research came out of the Perelman School of Medicine and was published in JAMA Neurology.

Penn Research: Pop-up Electrode for 3D Brain Mapping

Researchers in PENN’s College of Engineering developed a pop-up electrode device capable of studying individual neurons and their interactions. The device should limit the potential for brain tissue damage while providing a 3D map of the brain. Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, James L. Henderson, Jr. Memorial Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics co-led the research. He stated, “We can fabricate the sensor electrodes with resolution and performance comparable with the existing fabrication. But at the same time, we can pop them up into the 3D geometry before they are inserted into the brain…. It transforms the 2D into 3D.”

Penn Research: Novel Microneedle Bandage

Penn researchers published a description of a prototype novel microneedle patch that can immediately halt bleeding after an injury. It was published in Bioactive Materials. The hemostatic microneedle tech can be used like a typical adhesive bandage. Biocompatible and biodegradable microneedle arrays (MNAs) on the patch increase the surface contact with blood and stimulate and speed the clotting process.

Penn College of Medicine: High-Fat Diet Decreases Brain’s Ability to Regulate Food Intake

Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine published research in The Journal of Physiology indicating that calorie intake is regulated by astrocytes in the brain in the short term. They suggest that constantly eating a high-fat/calorie diet appears to disrupt the signaling pathway between the brain and the gut. “We found that a brief exposure (three to five days) of high-fat/calorie diet has the greatest effect on astrocytes, triggering the normal signaling pathway to control the stomach,” stated Kirsteen Browning, Ph.D., of Penn State College of Medicine. “Over time, astrocytes seem to desensitize to the high-fat food. Around 10-14 days of eating high-fat/calorie diet, astrocytes seem to fail to react and the brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake seems to be lost.”

People on the Move

Michael Criscuolo New VP of Development for The Wistar Institute

Michael Criscuolo was appointed VP of Development to The Wistar Institute (Philadelphia). Criscuolo was most recently executive director of the Bryn Mawr Hospital Foundation at Main Line Health. Criscuolo is expected to lead a recently launched $75 million programmatic campaign to invest in biomedical advances.

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