Trauma on their minds, treatment in their thoughts

Amarantus Biosciences and Banyan Biomarkers announce traumatic brain injury research collaboration

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SUNNYVALE, Calif.—Amarantus BioSciences Inc. and Alachua,Fla.-based Banyan Biomarkers Inc. have announced a collaboration agreement toevaluate the potential of mesencephalic-astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor(MANF) as a disease-modifying agent for the treatment of traumatic brain injury(TBI).
To this deal, Amarantus brings its skills as a biotechnologycompany actually developing MANF, a first-in-class disease-modifyingtherapeutic protein, while Banyan brings its talents as a leader in developing in-vitro diagnostic products to detect TBI.
MANF is a protein that corrects protein misfolding, whichthe companies note is one of the major causes of apoptosis, or cell death.According to Amarantus, this property "provides a compelling rationale for theresearch and development of MANF-based products as therapeutics for humandisease." 
Although this Amarantus-Banyan effort focuses on TBI, thelead MANF product development effort is centered on a therapy for Parkinson'sdisease, currently funded by a research grant from the Michael J. FoxFoundation for Parkinson's Research. Amarantus also owns an inventory of 88cell lines referred to as PhenoGuard Cell Lines—MANF being the firsttherapeutic protein discovered from a PhenoGuard line—and Amarantus anticipatesthat additional therapeutic proteins useful for therapeutic approaches in thecentral nervous system will be identified from the company's inventory ofPhenoGuard lines.
"TBI, often referred to as concussions, are the result ofdevastating acute blows to the head as are typically seen in contact sports oron the battlefield in military settings," said Gerald Commissiong, presidentand CEO of Amarantus, in the news release about the deal. "Given my footballbackground, I am hopeful that MANF will prove effective in treating theseinjuries and believe that this area of research could become an important partof Amarantus' overall strategy going forward."
Commissiong adds that the focus on concussions and traumaticbrain injury "is now at an all-time high with high-profile athletes such asSidney Crosby in the NHL and NFL players suffering from brain injuries on aweekly basis."
For Amarantus, targeting TBI is a way of using the company'sexpertise in central nervous system disorders to broaden the potentialapplications of MANF. It also supports the company's strategy to pursue areaswhere its therapeutics can be paired with diagnostics to expand the utility andadoption of its product candidates, according to Commissiong.
"MANF appears to have a profile of activity in cerebralischemia that is consistent with a potential therapeutic benefit in traumaticbrain injury," said Dr. Andreas Jeromin, director of business development andassay core services at Banyan, in the news release about the deal. "We arehopeful to be able to pair potential therapeutic treatments such as MANFalongside our groundbreaking diagnostic test going forward."
Looking to the deal and looking forward, Jeromin tells ddn that Banyan has a developed portfolio of proprietarybiomarkers in TBI, adding, "These biomarkers can be used for patientstratification, outcome prediction and therapeutic monitoring. Banyan's goal isto develop point-of-care test for acute traumatic brain injury, which can alsobe used as companion diagnostics if a drug treatment were to be developed forTBI."
Agreeing with Commissiong that traumatic forms of braininjury represent an important potential market segment, he adds, "TBI is anunmet medical need with growing importance and an efficacious drug treatment isdesperately needed."
Amarantus was introduced to Banyan Biomarkers by the U.S.Department of Defense, which thought MANF could have an impact with regard tobiomarkers on which Banyan is working, Commissiong says. He says work on theproject would begin this month.
"We will begin with in-vitro work in Banyan's cell-based assay and progress into animal modelsbased on positive results," he says. "We are likely to have initial data in Q12012 and move into additional models thereafter."

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