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Narrowing in on NuroPro
NOKOMIS, Fla.—Amarantus Biosciences and Rainbow Coral Corp. (RBCC) subsidiary Rainbow BioSciences are moving toward the finalization of the terms for a joint-venture agreement that will see the organizations working to progress NuroPro, Amarantus' Parkinson's diagnostic platform, towards commercialization.
The deal, for which RBCC has prepared a joint-venture term sheet, is intended to aid in the completion of the NuroPro program. The NuroPro test identifies differentiated levels of proteins and peptides in the blood of patients who have Parkinson's versus those who do not. NuroPro has completed a Phase I human clinical trial, and Amarantus and RBCC expect to initiate Phase II clinical studies next year. It is expected that once Phase II is complete, NuroPro will begin generating revenue through sales under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment certification.
"Amarantus' focus on Parkinson's disease has allowed it to gain considerable traction with partners who understand the potential value of the technologies we have in-house," Gerald E. Commissiong, president and CEO of Amarantus, said in a press release. "This transaction will allow Amarantus to gain upside from the licensing of the NuroPro asset, while defraying the costs of the project in order to focus our internal resources on the MANF program for Parkinson's disease and traumatic brain injury. As NuroPro advances towards commercialization, we expect it could become a key differentiating component of our clinical development program of MANF for Parkinson's disease."
The companies first made contact in February, says Commissiong, noting that they engaged with RBCC soon after completing the license for NuroPro, which he says was "a complete positioning of the company in the Parkinson's space with a diagnostic and a drug vertically." The agreement and commercialization of NuroPro will allow Amarantus to "really become a market leader positioning ourselves in Parkinson's." A 2011 report by Visiongain analysts forecasts that the Parkinson's disease market could grow to $3.75 billion by 2015.
"This is a cutting-edge approach to diagnosing a debilitating disease that has afflicted millions of people worldwide," RBCC CEO Patrick Brown said in a statement. "The marketplace is crying out for new breakthroughs in the diagnosis of neurological diseases, and we believe NuroPro has the potential to diagnose Parkinson's disease early, allowing physicians to initiate treatment regimens earlier, as well as conduct research of clinical-stage disease-modifying treatments on earlier-stage patients."
In addition to NuroPro, Amarantus is also developing its MANF program. MANF is "an endogenous, highly-conserved, ubiquitously expressed and highly potent secreted human growth factor up-regulated in the adaptive pathway of the Unfolded Protein Response resulting in the prevention of apoptosis," Amarantus notes on its website, and "by mediating this critical biological process, MANF is highly indicated for the treatment of several poorly served medical conditions, including Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease." It is thought that MANF will be able to protect dopamine-producing neurons from apoptosis and revitalize dying cells to stop the progression of Parkinson's disease and restore normal function.
The University of Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute's Center of Excellence in Apoptosis Research has awarded Amarantus a Translational Research Grant award to identify additional indications in which MANF could have therapeutic potential. Commissiong says progress for the program is slow but steady, and that the data so far has been "over the top as far as what we've seen in the potential of the technology."
"What we have appears to be very broad in terms of applicability, and it looks as though we have a number of application areas that could be rather quick to market. And that's really one of the keys for us," he explains. "So what we've done, basically, is we said okay, we're going to focus on MANF, we're going to keep Parkinson's as our lead vertical for a number of reasons, primarily medical needs and relationships in product positioning, but we're really going to start to evaluate the potential applications, especially with new data that's come out related to MANF having an effect in vivo in a model of myocardial infarction and a grant that we just received from the Center of Excellence in Apoptosis Research in Massachusetts to identify new indications for MANF."
"It's very clear MANF has applications in a number of disease areas," says Commissiong. "It's very clear that we're only scratching the tip of the iceberg as far as what it could do."