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Trauma on their minds, treatment in their thoughts
January 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


SUNNYVALE, Calif.—Amarantus BioSciences Inc. and Alachua, Fla.-based Banyan Biomarkers Inc. have announced a collaboration agreement to evaluate 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 biotechnology company actually developing MANF, a first-in-class disease-modifying therapeutic 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, which the companies note is one of the major causes of apoptosis, or cell death. According to Amarantus, this property "provides a compelling rationale for the research and development of MANF-based products as therapeutics for human disease."
Although this Amarantus-Banyan effort focuses on TBI, the lead MANF product development effort is centered on a therapy for Parkinson's disease, currently funded by a research grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Amarantus also owns an inventory of 88 cell lines referred to as PhenoGuard Cell Lines—MANF being the first therapeutic protein discovered from a PhenoGuard line—and Amarantus anticipates that additional therapeutic proteins useful for therapeutic approaches in the central nervous system will be identified from the company's inventory of PhenoGuard lines.
"TBI, often referred to as concussions, are the result of devastating acute blows to the head as are typically seen in contact sports or on the battlefield in military settings," said Gerald Commissiong, president and CEO of Amarantus, in the news release about the deal. "Given my football background, I am hopeful that MANF will prove effective in treating these injuries and believe that this area of research could become an important part of Amarantus' overall strategy going forward."  
Commissiong adds that the focus on concussions and traumatic brain injury "is now at an all-time high with high-profile athletes such as Sidney Crosby in the NHL and NFL players suffering from brain injuries on a weekly basis."  
For Amarantus, targeting TBI is a way of using the company's expertise in central nervous system disorders to broaden the potential applications of MANF. It also supports the company's strategy to pursue areas where its therapeutics can be paired with diagnostics to expand the utility and adoption of its product candidates, according to Commissiong.  
"MANF appears to have a profile of activity in cerebral ischemia that is consistent with a potential therapeutic benefit in traumatic brain injury," said Dr. Andreas Jeromin, director of business development and assay core services at Banyan, in the news release about the deal. "We are hopeful to be able to pair potential therapeutic treatments such as MANF alongside our groundbreaking diagnostic test going forward."  
Looking to the deal and looking forward, Jeromin tells ddn that Banyan has a developed portfolio of proprietary biomarkers in TBI, adding, "These biomarkers can be used for patient stratification, outcome prediction and therapeutic monitoring. Banyan's goal is to develop point-of-care test for acute traumatic brain injury, which can also be used as companion diagnostics if a drug treatment were to be developed for TBI."
Agreeing with Commissiong that traumatic forms of brain injury represent an important potential market segment, he adds, "TBI is an unmet medical need with growing importance and an efficacious drug treatment is desperately needed."   Amarantus was introduced to Banyan Biomarkers by the U.S. Department of Defense, which thought MANF could have an impact with regard to biomarkers on which Banyan is working, Commissiong says. He says work on the project would begin this month. "We will begin with in-vitro work in Banyan's cell-based assay and progress into animal models based on positive results," he says. "We are likely to have initial data in Q1 2012 and move into additional models thereafter."
Code: E011216



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