Archive: Company News

Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up

Dieter Durand and Susanne Kutter in Wirtschaftswoche feature a disputation between Alzheimer-researcher Konrad Beyreuther and author Cornelia Stolze, who has written a book claiming Alzheimer’s disease does not exist as an exactly defined disease.

While Beyreuther maintains the disease is real and can be clinically separated from other forms of dementia, he concedes that current medications are useless and that diagnosis often is inadequate. Stolze in her book “Vergiss Alzheimer” (“Forget About Alzheimer’s”) states that patients with signs of dementia often are labeled as Alzheimer’s disease patients although they are not, that they receive useless medications, that the real causes of their respective dementias, such as diabetes, depression, stroke, or dehydration, are overlooked and not treated, and that medical doctors make money with unreliable early diagnostic tests. A review of the book is to follow soon – please regularly check the akampioneer.

Joachim Müller-Jung in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) comments on a proposal by several US stem cell researchers in the “Cell Stem Cell” journal. The manifesto calls for establishing a market for human donor egg cells so that scientists can use these cells for cloning experiments. While the purpose is not cloning humans but generating pluripotent human stem cells, Müller-Jung warns that the push will once again put the “cloning humans” debate on the table – a discussion he thinks is needed like a hole in the head. He states there are plenty of experiments already demonstrating that sooner or later it will be possible to generate pluripotent human stem cells for regenerative medicine by reprogramming human body cells.

Martina Lenzen-Schulte, also in FAZ, features the first attempts to use the mirror neuron concept for clinical purposes, e.g. for the rehabilitation of stroke patients to support regain of movement control.

Hildegard Kaulen in FAZ reminds her readers that a substantial part of the research crowned by nobel prizes never received third-party funds. She expresses sympathy with the proposal put forward in “Nature” by Stanford University’s John Ioannidis to either allocate research grants by lottery, by dividing up the money so that each applicant receives the same amount, or simply by handing out money to outstanding scientists with the only specification to use it for research. He criticizes that it has never been investigated which method to allocate research grants is the best and that the current practice consumes too much valuable time that should be spent more creatively on research.

Die Welt reports in a feature by dpa on material scientists of the Technical University Dresden who use wood for pipes that are as strong and resilient as pipes made from concrete. Wood is cut to rectangular blocks, which are heated to 140°C and compressed. Subsequently, all air – which amounts to up to two third of the wood’s volume –  is removed. The resulting panels are then bonded and formed by applying steam. The team led by Peer Haller of the university’s Institute for Steel and Wood Construction calculates that a post carrying 50 tons of weight needs 155 kg of steel but only 28 kg of wood treated with the new procedure.

Katrin Blawat in Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports that Umckaloabo, an alcoholic extract of Pelargonium sidoides roots, is under investigation by Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). The medication, which is sold as OTC in Germany for the treatment of acute bronchitis (with annual sales of about € 40 million), is suspected to cause inflammation of the liver, with six cases reported in 2011.

The New York Times (NYT) this week deals in-depth with the recommendation of the United States Preventive Services Task Force that men no longer should have an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Gardiner Harris interviewed the experts involved in reviewing PSA testing, citing Dr. Roger Chou, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Oregon, as saying “the idea that knowing you have a cancer isn’t always a good thing is a very difficult concept for many people.” Chou states that the vast majority of men who have prostate cancer will never be bothered by it. Urologists however view the issue differently, stating the task force chose to focus on the wrong studies and it was wrong to throw PSA testing away.

Last not least, in preparation of the coming common cold season, Ulrike Gebhard in Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) explains that men suffer from the common cold more often than women. Reason is – according to researchers from Belgian Gent University – that women often carry extra portions of genes from the toll-like receptor (TLR) gene family. As a result, they produce more of the so-called miRNA molecules that support the body in fending off viral infections. The downside of women’s more powerful immune system is increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases and a more violent reaction to certain vaccines.

Company News: Probiodrug’s Hypothesis on Alzheimer’s Disease Onset Featured in German Radio

During the upcoming World Alzheimer Day, the German MDR radio will feature the efforts by German biotechnology company Probiodrug to develop novel strategies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). MDR’s FIGARO am Vormittag morning magazine will introduce the company’s hypothesis on the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and highlight the latest research results published by Probiodrug and co-workers from German and US research institutions in the recent  Journal of Neuroscience.

It is well known that the presence of so-called beta-amyloid (A beta) plaques in the brain is not necessarily correlated with the occurrence of AD. Probiodrug discovered that in AD patients, the core of the plaques is made form a certain variant of the A beta peptide which is more neurotoxic, less soluble and able to rapidly aggregate with modified and unmodified A beta. Further investigations revealed that this toxic variant is generated by an enzyme called QC (glutaminyl cyclase). QC is responsible for activating certain hormones and enzymes in the brain by modifying a certain chemical group in these molecules. If it starts acting on A beta, it produces the toxic variant. Probiodrug also has demonstrated in various experiments that it is possible to prevent the formation or spread of toxic A beta plaques by switching off the QC enzyme. The company therefore is developing drugs to inhibit the enzyme as a potential treatment strategy to either prevent the onset of AD or slow down the progression of the disease.

Company News: Nanobiotix Starts Clinical Trial with Lead Product NBTXR3

– A Completely New Cancer Treatment to Be Tested in Patients with Soft Tissue Sarcoma –

Nanobiotix, a company developing novel cancer nanotherapeutics, announced today that its lead compound NBTXR3 has received the formal authorization from the French Medicine Agency, AFSSAPS[1], to start the first clinical trial[2].

27 patients diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma will be enrolled in the Phase I study and will receive NBTXR3 as an intra-tumoral injection with radiotherapy prior to surgery (first-line treatment) (www.clinicaltrial.gov). The primary endpoints of the clinical trial are the feasibility of NBTXR3 administration and safety. Preliminary data are expected by the end of 2012.

The trial is a prospective, open-label, dose-escalation, single arm, non-randomized trial. NBTXR3 will be administered to the patients prior to surgery by a single intra-tumoral injection followed by standard radiotherapy procedure. After completion of the regular treatment procedure, the patients will undergo surgery to resect the soft tissue sarcoma. Along with the safety and feasibility endpoints, the primary tumor tissue will then be available for the evaluation of the pathological response rate.

Further clinical trials are in preparation in Europe and in the US. NBTXR3 has been classified in the EU as class III medical device. In the US, it has been classified as a drug by the FDA.

NBTXR3, the most advanced compound of Nanobiotix´ NanoXray pipeline, is intended to enhance the local destruction of the tumor mass during radiotherapy. NBTXR3 is a nanoparticle consisting of hafnium oxide crystals. Once injected into the tumor, NBTXR3 accumulates in the cancer cells. Due to the physical properties of hafnium oxide, the particles emit huge amounts of electrons upon radiation. This leads to the formation of radicals within the tumor cell, which in turn damage the cancer cells and cause their targeted destruction. NBTXR3 particles are inert and emit electrons only during their exposure to radiotherapy. As a result, the destructive power of standard radiation therapy could be locally and selectively enhanced within the tumor cells.

Local treatment of malignant tumors is a cornerstone of cancer therapy. The standard treatments are surgery and radiotherapy, either as a stand-alone treatment or in combination. Radiotherapy has been widely used across most oncology indications for decades. About 50 to 60% of all cancer patients undergo radiotherapy treatment as part of existing treatment guidelines. All NanoXray products are compatible with these guidelines and do not require changes of surgery and radiotherapy procedures. Moreover, NanoXray products can be used with any existing standard radiation equipment available in almost every hospital world-wide.


[1] Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé

[2] Clinical trial, registration number RCB 2011-A00342-39

Company News: Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s Disease: The crucial role of QC

Probiodrug provides further insights into the onset of AD in The Journal of Neuroscience

Probiodrug AG (Probiodrug), a biotech company developing novel products for the treatment of neurodegenerative and inflammatory disorders, today announced the publication of data providing key insights into the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the Journal of Neuroscience (http://redir.ec/jneurosci).

AD is characterized by deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) plaques in the brain. However, quantitative relationship between plaque deposition and severity of cognitive decline in the affected individuals is still elusive. Often, elderly people carry a large amyloid burden without any signs of cognitive impairments, and many animal models of AD also develop the characteristic hallmarks, such as plaques, but do not demonstrate the cognitive defects and loss of neurons typical of the human disease.

Several years ago, Probiodrug developed the hypothesis that the missing link between Aβ load and prevalence of AD is a certain modification of Aβ, in which the Aβ molecule carries a pyroglutamate residue (pGlu) at its N-terminus. This pGlu-Aβ is neurotoxic and develops a strong tendency to aggregate and to seed aggregation of further pGlu-Aβ as well as unmodified Aβ. The modification of glutamic acid to a pGlu-residue is catalyzed by the so-called QC enzyme (glutaminyl cyclase).

In this week’s The Journal of Neuroscience* Probiodrug researchers (and their collaborators from Friedrich Alexander University, Erlangen, the German Center of Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, the Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, Leipzig, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville/ USA) now describe the generation and characterization of a novel animal model that solely expresses N-truncated human Aβ, which in turn is modified by QC to pGlu-Aβ. As a result, these animals which express the toxic species 1000fold less than other models do with Aβ not only have the typical pathological changes, but also neuronal loss and cognitive impairments.

”We now have animal models that represent the full spectrum of pathological and behavioral changes in AD without overexpressing the Aβ peptides. In addition, we could once again clearly demonstrate that the activity of QC enzymes is starting the chain of events that ultimately leads to the debilitating disease, which already affects millions of people world-wide. The results in this study also demonstrate that lowering the QC-dependent formation of pGlu-Aβ reduces the amount of neurotoxic aggregations, and further strengthens the hypothesis that inhibition of QC is a promising new treatment strategy for AD” commented Hans Ulrich Demuth, CSO of Probiodrug.

*doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2172-11.2011

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