Narrowing in on NuroPro

Amarantus, RBCC to focus on Parkinson’s diagnostic in joint venture

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NOKOMIS, Fla.—Amarantus Biosciences and Rainbow Coral Corp.(RBCC) subsidiary Rainbow BioSciences are moving toward the finalization of theterms for a joint-venture agreement that will see the organizations working toprogress NuroPro, Amarantus' Parkinson's diagnostic platform, towardscommercialization.
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 testidentifies differentiated levels of proteins and peptides in the blood ofpatients who have Parkinson's versus those who do not. NuroPro has completed aPhase I human clinical trial, and Amarantus and RBCC expect to initiate PhaseII clinical studies next year. It is expected that once Phase II is complete,NuroPro will begin generating revenue through sales under the ClinicalLaboratory Improvement Amendment certification.
"Amarantus' focus on Parkinson's disease has allowed it togain considerable traction with partners who understand the potential value ofthe technologies we have in-house," Gerald E. Commissiong, president and CEO ofAmarantus, said in a press release. "This transaction will allow Amarantus togain upside from the licensing of the NuroPro asset, while defraying the costsof the project in order to focus our internal resources on the MANF program forParkinson's disease and traumatic brain injury. As NuroPro advances towardscommercialization, we expect it could become a key differentiating component ofour clinical development program of MANF for Parkinson's disease."
The companies first made contact in February, saysCommissiong, noting that they engaged with RBCC soon after completing thelicense for NuroPro, which he says was "a complete positioning of the companyin the Parkinson's space with a diagnostic and a drug vertically." Theagreement and commercialization of NuroPro will allow Amarantus to "reallybecome a market leader positioning ourselves in Parkinson's." A 2011 report byVisiongain analysts forecasts that the Parkinson's disease market could grow to$3.75 billion by 2015.
"This is a cutting-edge approach to diagnosing adebilitating disease that has afflicted millions of people worldwide," RBCC CEOPatrick Brown said in a statement. "The marketplace is crying out for newbreakthroughs in the diagnosis of neurological diseases, and we believe NuroProhas the potential to diagnose Parkinson's disease early, allowing physicians toinitiate treatment regimens earlier, as well as conduct research ofclinical-stage disease-modifying treatments on earlier-stage patients."
In addition to NuroPro, Amarantus is also developing itsMANF program. MANF is "an endogenous, highly-conserved, ubiquitously expressedand highly potent secreted human growth factor up-regulated in the adaptivepathway of the Unfolded Protein Response resulting in the prevention ofapoptosis," Amarantus notes on its website, and "by mediating this criticalbiological process, MANF is highly indicated for the treatment of severalpoorly served medical conditions, including Parkinson's disease and ischemicheart disease." It is thought that MANF will be able to protect dopamine-producingneurons from apoptosis and revitalize dying cells to stop the progression ofParkinson's disease and restore normal function.
The University of Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley LifeSciences Institute's Center of Excellence in Apoptosis Research has awardedAmarantus a Translational Research Grant award to identify additionalindications in which MANF could have therapeutic potential. Commissiong saysprogress 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 ofapplicability, and it looks as though we have a number of application areasthat could be rather quick to market. And that's really one of the keys forus," he explains. "So what we've done, basically, is we said okay, we're goingto focus on MANF, we're going to keep Parkinson's as our lead vertical for anumber of reasons, primarily medical needs and relationships in productpositioning, but we're really going to start to evaluate the potentialapplications, especially with new data that's come out related to MANF havingan effect in vivo in a model ofmyocardial infarction and a grant that we just received from the Center ofExcellence in Apoptosis Research in Massachusetts to identify new indicationsfor MANF."
"It's very clear MANF has applications in a number ofdisease areas," says Commissiong. "It's very clear that we're only scratchingthe tip of the iceberg as far as what it could do."

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