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Thread: BioAxone Therapeutics, receives a first-round investment of $11.5 million for spinal cord injury drug

  1. #1

    BioAxone Therapeutics, receives a first-round investment of $11.5 million for spinal cord injury drug

    BioAxone Therapeutics, a Montréal neuroscience company, receives a first-round investment of $11.5 million



    MONTREAL, July 2 /CNW/ - BioAxone Therapeutic Inc., a Montreal-based
    neuroscience company, is pleased to announce a first-round investment of
    $11.5 M. Four major Quebec venture capital companies, namely T2C2/Bio2000,
    Solidarity Fund QFL, Investissement Desjardins, and Innovatech of Montreal
    made the investment.

    The new financing follows a seed round by the company founders as well as
    MedTech Partners/Neuroscience Developments Inc. in May 2001.

    BioAxone has developed a therapeutic protein, Cethrin(TM), which has
    shown efficacy in spinal cord injury in animal models. The new investment will
    allow the company to begin manufacturing Cethrin for human use, to complete
    pre-clinical toxicology testing and to begin a limited I/IIA clinical trial in
    patients with spinal cord injury. The company had planned a financing round of
    $7M, which was oversubscribed. The additional funds will be used for pre-
    clinical testing of Cethrin in other medical applications and to support its
    chemistry program in therapeutic small-molecules.

    The founders of BioAxone Therapeutic, incorporated in 2000, are Lisa
    McKerracher, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Pierre Caouette, Chief
    Financial Officer & Vice President of Corporate Affairs. Dr. McKerracher is a
    neuroscientist who has conducted research in the field of neuronal
    regeneration in the central nervous system for the past 15 years. She was the
    2000 recipient of the Christopher Reeve Medal along with Dr. Albert Aguayo of
    Montreal.

    BioAxone is a Université de Montreal spin-off company that will
    commercialize Dr. McKerracher's most important discovery, Rho inhibitors that
    are cell permeable. Cethrin was selected as the most potent of 5 inhibitors
    that were created and tested.

    It is known that growth inhibitory proteins in the central nervous system
    block axon regeneration. Dr. McKerracher found that when axons in the spinal
    cord are injured, an intracellular signaling molecule called Rho is abnormally
    activated. Under Dr. McKerracher's supervision, the BioAxone team developed
    Cethrin, a patented therapeutic protein designed to inactivate Rho. They found
    that inactivation of Rho with Cethrin promotes axon regeneration in tissue
    culture. Cethrin stimulates regeneration and functional recovery of hind-limb
    movement in studies of paralyzed animals.

    According to Pierre Caouette, BioAxone has successfully met or exceeded
    all of its milestones in both science and business development, and has
    established itself as a company to watch, due to its rapid progress and the
    importance of its therapeutic target. BioAxone has a tract record of success
    in pre-clinical animal studies, scale-up and purification of Cethrin
    production, as well as discovery of therapeutic small molecules. "This
    endeavour would not be possible without university support in the early start-
    up phase and the favourable monetary incentives of the Canadian and Québec
    governments," said Mr. Caouette. Today's investment will lead to the creation
    of approximately 15 new research positions at BioAxone.

    BioAxone Therapeutic is a privately owned biotechnology company located
    in Montreal, Canada.

  2. #2

    from the Bioaxone site:

    Company lead - CethrinTM

    CethrinTM is a proprietary recombinant protein drug (patent pending) designed to penetrate CNS tissue that elicits repair of neurons damaged in the CNS. BioAxone's scientists engineered six new, effective Rho antagonists, and chose the most potent of these to bring forward to clinical trial. The biological target of CethrinTM is an intracellular signaling molecule called Rho. CethrinTM protects the site of a CNS injury and stimulates regeneration of damaged axons in the spinal cord. BioAxone has developed a delivery kit (patent pending) to allow a physician to apply the drug to the trauma area of injured spinal cord.

    CethrinTM inactives Rho. The product has been tested in two different models of CNS injury. After transection of adult mouse spinal cord it was able to promote remarkable regeneration and also prevents cell death at the site of injury. Moreover, it promotes functional recovery of hind limb locomotion. Company scientists are now testing the application and dose of CethrinTM in more complex models of spinal cord injury.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    I think it's totally amazing that they got this money with the financial markets the way they are. I think they have some impressive technology if the venture capitalists oversubscribed the funding round. Makes me happy.

  4. #4
    Good article Seneca, Thanks.

    Cethrin. Is it for acute injuries. chronic or both?

    Anyone have any insight.

    Onward and Upward!

  5. #5
    Senior Member X-racer...'s Avatar
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    In looking through the web sight http://www.bioaxone.com/ they state they will aim for FDA fast track approval in acute SCI first. I'm not sure were i read this from but I think the more complex SCI model they talked about is a chronic contusion model
    Company scientists are now testing the application and dose of CethrinTM in more complex models of spinal cord injury.

    LIVE IT UP AND LIVE IT LARGE!!!!

  6. #6
    Max

    Member posted Jul 15, 2002 08:45 PM Â*
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Research firm provides hope for victims of spinal injuries

    SHEILA McGOVERN
    Montreal Gazette


    Monday, July 15, 2002

    GAZETTE
    Lisa McKerracher, of BioAxone Therapeutic Inc., won the Christopher Reeve medal in 2000 for her work on spinal-cord injuries. Each year, about 15,000 North Americans suffer such injuries, and BioAxone has had promising results in early-stage research.


    Lisa McKerracher's directions were excellent and finding BioAxone Therapeutic Inc. proved to be easy.

    Just wander out back of the main building at the Université de Montréal and enter from the loading area. The business is housed in utilitarian spaces, on different floors, scattered among medical classrooms.

    The little 2-year-old company might not look like much yet, but its science was sound enough to attract $11.5 million in financing from four venture-capital firms - a pretty good haul, considering the company set out to raise $7 million.

    BioAxone is determined to find a way to restore movement following a spinal-cord injury.

    Right now, little can be done for the 15,000 people in North America who suffer spinal-cord injuries each year. Most are men, under 30 years of age, who have been injured as the result of an accident. "They are being told to live with it," McKerracher said.

    Big pharmaceutical companies have not shown much interest because the market is relatively small and there's not a lot of money to be made, she said, "but spinal-cord injury has an enormous impact because the personal cost is very high."

    Young people are "paralyzed for the rest of their life," she pointed out, "and they have a normal life span because of improvements in medical technology."

    For a long time it was believed that once the lines of communication between the brain and the spine - called axons - had been damaged, they could not be repaired.

    McKerracher, however, did post-doctoral studies with Albert Aguayo, who is head of the Centre for Research in Neuroscience at McGill University and who wasn't convinced that the lines of communication couldn't be restored. In 2000 they won the Christopher Reeve Medal - named for the actor who portrayed Superman in the movies but was paralyzed in a riding accident in 1995 - for studies indicating there is no intrinsic reason why axons cannot be regenerated.

    It's a question of environment, the pair found. There are proteins within the central nervous system that inhibit growth and block axon regeneration. McKerracher found that when the spinal cord is injured, a signaling molecule called Rho is abnormally activated. So BioAxone developed Cethrin, a patented therapeutic protein designed to inactivate Rho. When Rho is turned off, the axons ignore the growth inhibitors and begin to regenerate.

    BioAxone's early studies show Cethrin can restore hind-limb movement in some animals and might also limit cell damage surrounding the injury.

    But it's a long and costly leap from proving something works in animals to proving it can do the same in humans.

    The funds the company has just raised will get it through its next round of testing, which concentrates on the safety of the drug and ensures it is not toxic. But once the major human trials begin, BioAxone will have to seek a partner, McKerracher said, since it doesn't have the money or the expertise to go it alone.

    And McKerracher is offering no predictions on when the company will be ready to bring a product to market. Though pleasant and chatty, she's new to the world of business. She's spent most of her career in academia. She knows promotion is a part of doing business, but she's eager to avoid hype.

    She receives correspondence from people who have suffered spinal-cord injuries, or their loved ones. She has to tell them the research BioAxone is doing is directed at people who have just been injured, not those already in wheelchairs. Along the way, researchers are picking up information that will be helpful when they tackle old injuries, she said, but that won't happen for some time.

    And the company will be tackling areas other than spinal-cord injuries.

    "There's so much commonality of mechanism between brain and spinal cord that anything you discover in the spinal cord will have other applications in the central nervous system." McKerracher said. "We have some early proof-of-principle studies that our therapy would also be interesting in strokes. Both have abnormal activation of Rho."

    Investors were also attracted by the company's ability to develop therapeutic small molecules.

    But whatever BioAxone pursues, it will have to be in keeping with the company's business plan, she said. That's one lesson she has learned in jumping to business from academe.

    As a university researcher, one is motivated by curiosity and pursues avenues that open unexpectedly. As a businessperson, however, she has to avoid being sidetracked.

    BioAxone is actually what is known as a university spinoff. The company is founded on research done at the Université de Montréal that the university has allowed to be commercialized in return for a percentage of the company and royalties. Such ventures can become an important source of income, she said, there are universities in the U.S. that make millions of dollars from their spinoffs.

    McKerracher had dabbled a bit in business before launching BioAxone in 2000, and there is one lesson she quickly learned: scientists are not necessarily good businesspeople. So BioAxone was created as a partnership between herself and businessman Pierre Caouette, who was a friend and sailing partner at the time, but is now her husband.

    Together they came up with $250,000 to launch the company, including her share of the prize money for the Christopher Reeve Medal, which came to $25,000 U.S. - "a lot of money for a university professor," she said.

    The company was also able to obtain seed financing through MedTech Partners/Neuroscience Development Inc. The original commitment was for $600,000, she said, but BioAxone had used only half that amount when it decided it was far enough along to turn to the venture capital market.

    There was a lot of interest - "It was almost like an auction," she said - and the company ended up raising more than it expected from T2C2/Bio 2000, the Quebec Federation of Labour's Solidarity Fund, Investissements Desjardins and Innovatech of Montreal.

    Bernard Coupal, head of T2C2, said the company met all the criteria his fund looks for: good science and a respected scientist, its intellectual property is protected by patents, and the market potential for its products is good.

    While the company has enough money, McKerracher found she didn't have enough time, so she has taken a leave of absence from her teaching duties at the university.

    In the next few months the company, which has 12 full-time and one part-time employee, hopes to hire a chief executive familiar with the biotechnology industry to replace Caouette, who is the part-timer. It plans to take on four more employees, but is currently restricted by space.

    So finding a new home is a priority. McKerracher said the company has been looking at the biotech building under way at the old Angus rail yards in Rosemont, which will offer individual space as well as shared facilities like boardrooms, animal laboratories and a cafeteria.

    © Copyright 2002 Montreal Gazette

  7. #7
    Research creates hope for therapies to deal with spinal cord injuryÂ*
    HELEN BRANSWELL
    Canadian Press
    Thursday, August 01, 2002ADVERTISEMENT

    TORONTO (CP) - A Montreal researcher appears to have added another important piece to the rapidly evolving puzzle that is spinal cord research. Working in mice, Lisa McKerracher and her team has found a way to block proteins that inhibit nerve regrowth in the spine. Such regrowth - once thought to be impossible - is needed to restore movement and sensation below the site of a spinal cord break.

    The work of McKerracher and others in this burgeoning field are creating hope that in future a spinal cord injury will not be the life-altering event it is today.

    "This is a field where we are going to see clinical therapies in the foreseeable future," McKerracher said in an interview Wednesday.

    "It doesn't mean . . . people are going to be jumping out of wheelchairs. What it does mean is that Number 1, we can lessen the damage so that people will not be as incapacitated. And the way people in this field think is: Even if you can recover one segment of function to that patient, it means a huge amount.

    "For someone who's a total quadriplegic, to regain use of their fingers is (massive)."

    McKerracher, professor of neuroscience at the University of Montreal, has discovered that it is possible to promote neuron regeneration by essentially turning off a system called the Rho signalling pathway. That system, she believes, is the mastermind behind a variety of proteins found in the central nervous system which inhibit regrowth after a spinal cord injury.

    Her team's findings were published Thursday in the Journal of Neuroscience.

    "One of the most difficult obstacles in the field of spinal cord injury is finding effective methods to encourage regeneration of cut axons," McKerracher said. Axons are threadlike portions of nerve cells and conduct impulses from the cell body.

    McKerracher's research is at the forefront of the "exciting" field of regenerative medicine, said Dr. Remi Quirion, scientific director of the Institute for Neurosciences, part of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

    "Her findings clearly open new avenues towards more effective treatments of injuries to nervous tissues," Quirion said.

    The McKerracher team used two compounds - one of which is a close cousin to Botox - to deactivate the Rho pathway. She has established a private company, BioAxone Therapeutics Inc., to develop her process, test it through clinical trials and eventually take it to market if it proves successful.

    No one is sure at this point if there is a downside to switching off the Rho pathway. McKerracher acknowledged that some believe the inhibitors play a role in pain control. But the mice she treated showed no signs of being in excruciating pain.

    "They do appear to recover very well," she said.

    Even if McKerracher or others find a sure-fire way to promote axon regrowth that works in humans, there are other challenges. Although many teams are working on it, no one has yet found a way to get the nerve cells above the site of an injury to communicate with nerve cells below the site, to bridge the injury site.

    And much of the most promising work points to therapies for new spinal cord injuries, not people such as Rick Hansen and Christopher Reeve, who have been living with paralysis for years.

    Still, McKerracher believes the funds those two high profile activists have raised for spinal cord research will soon result in progress.

    "I think what we're seeing is that this field is really moving fast."

    It is estimated that a quarter million people in North America live with paralysis and that 11,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries every year.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    For further information on BioAxone's research and development programs:
    Dr. L. McKerracher
    Tel: (514) 990-1074
    Fax: (514) 990-1074
    Email : lisa.mckerracher@bioaxone.com

    "If the wind could blow my troubles away. I'd stand in front of a hurricane."

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    Chris it says

    And much of the most promising work points to therapies for new spinal cord injuries, not people such as Rick Hansen and Christopher Reeve, who have been living with paralysis for years.
    Still, McKerracher believes the funds those two high profile activists have raised for spinal cord research will soon result in progress.
    "I think what we're seeing is that this field is really moving fast."
    It is estimated that a quarter million people in North America live with paralysis and that 11,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries every year.

    "If the wind could blow my troubles away. I'd stand in front of a hurricane."

  10. #10
    sci pilot
    Member posted Aug 07, 2002 10:27 AM Â*
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sorry if this is already posted I did a search for mckerracher and nothing came up so maybe this is new informatio



    Spinal cord sufferers receive new hope



    By CP

    TORONTO -- A Montreal researcher appears to have added another important
    piece to the rapidly evolving puzzle that is spinal cord research.

    Working in mice, Lisa McKerracher and her team has found a way to block
    proteins that inhibit nerve regrowth in the spine.

    Such regrowth -- once thought to be impossible -- is needed to restore
    movement and sensation below the site of a spinal cord break.

    The work of McKerracher and others in this burgeoning field are creating
    hope that, in future, a spinal cord injury will not be the life-altering
    event it is today.

    "This is a field where we are going to see clinical therapies in the
    foreseeable future," McKerracher said yesterday.

    "It doesn't mean . . . people are going to be jumping out of
    wheelchairs. What it does mean is that Number 1, we can lessen the
    damage so that people will not be as incapacitated. And the way people
    in this field think is: Even if you can recover one segment of function
    to that patient, it means a huge amount.

    "For someone who's a total quadriplegic, to regain use of their fingers
    is (massive)."

    McKerracher, professor of neuroscience at the University of Montreal,
    has discovered it is possible to promote neuron regeneration by
    essentially turning off a system called the Rho signalling pathway.

    That system, she believes, is the mastermind behind a variety of
    proteins found in the central nervous system which inhibit regrowth
    after a spinal cord injury.

    Her team's findings were published today in the Journal of Neuroscience.


    "One of the most difficult obstacles in the field of spinal cord injury
    is finding effective methods to encourage regeneration of cut axons,"
    McKerracher said. Axons are threadlike portions of nerve cells and
    conduct impulses from the cell body.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Posts: 8Â*|Â*From: calgary alberta canadaÂ*|Â*Registered: May 24, 2002

    seneca
    Moderator posted Aug 07, 2002 02:02 PM Â*
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    SCI Pilot, your search should have turned up 5 articles and 28 replies. I'll post this under the latest thread since this one doesn't have any replies yet but thanks for contributing!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Posts: 2377Â*|Â*From: FloridaÂ*|Â*Registered: Jul 24, 2001

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