NZ company growing new skin for burn victims

A Kiwi biotechnology company which has found a way to grow bigger-than-A5 sheets of replacement human skin says the product might be ready to start clinical trials on burn patients in 2020 or 2021.

Upside Biotechnologies, a company which spun out of the University of Auckland’s immunology research area, announced this week it has raised $2 million in a convertible notes issue from existing investors.

And it is preparing for a $10m to $15m capital raising later this year, which will hopefully take it into clinical trials 12-15 months after that.

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Upside Biotechnologies wins $409k research grant

Upside Biotechnologies, a regenerative tissue developer spun out of Auckland University, has won a $409,000 research grant to prepare its PelliCel product for a clinical trial and deepening its existing relationship with the US Army.

Auckland-based Upside, which raised $2.3 million last year, won the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC) prototype acceleration award, it said in a statement. The biotech firm is developing an advanced skin replacement treatment for burn victims, enabling a small sample of unburnt skin to be grown in a lab and used as skin grafts for patients who don’t have enough uninjured skin for a conventional graft.

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Caldera founder Jim Watson loses cancer battle

Jim Watson, whose personal battle with prostate cancer led him to co-found Caldera Health, has succumbed to the disease but investors are showing confidence in the company’s gene testing technology by converting options into shares.

Watson, who had been a scientific and management adviser up until the end of 2016, died on Feb. 13, Caldera’s chief executive Rob Mitchell has confirmed. Watson co-founded the company with Richard Foster, who had also been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and died in January 2014.

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Caldera says third study of PSA-test alternative shows high ability to spot Prostate cancer

Caldera Health, a New Zealand biotech company working on a gene-sequencing replacement for the world’s most widely used prostate cancer test, says its third clinical test has shown a strong ability to identify prostate cancer and screen out those who test negative.

The company is working on a replacement for the widely used PSA blood test with a simple “pee in a pot” test, using RNA biomarkers. In 2012, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended against mass PSA screening because it threw up both false positives and negatives, didn’t distinguish between aggressive cancers and benign strains or even other prostate conditions, and led to over-diagnosis and unnecessary prostatectomies.

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The California Drought And Standards Of IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) has a remote control problem — devices are operating independently with no knowledge of each other’s existence. Even systems that are supposed to work together don’t do so easily, such as the Apple TV and just about any output device.

We need a digital age of enlightenment and openness to unleash the full potential of the IoT. This means standardizing cross-device and multi-platform communication, and building user interfaces that are easy to use.

Read more on techcrunch.com

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New blood a boost for biotech firm

Congrats to Breath Easy in securing a high profile Chairman, demonstrating the power of angel investment to provide critical connections and contacts.
Tech industry veteran Gary Pace appointed to lead board of Breathe Easy Therapeutics.

New Zealand’s Breathe Easy Therapeutics has made a high-profile addition to its board as it advances plans for medical trials of its cystic fibrosis therapy.  The company, which is in the middle of a Snowball Effect equity crowdfunding campaign, has appointed Gary Pace – a more than 40-year veteran of the technology world – as independent chairman.

Pace, a San Diego-based Australian, also sits on the board of ASX-listed medical device maker Resmed and Nasdaq-listed pharmaceutical firm Transition Therapeutics.  Breathe Easy’s Citramel therapy is administered via inhaler for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a genetic illness that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 75,000 people worldwide.  The drug is being positioned as a core therapy to improve lung function and potentially enhance the effectiveness of other therapies such as antibiotics.  Citramel’s potential market is estimated at US$1 billion ($1.33 billion).

The Snowball Effect campaign, which had successfully raised $374,818 by yesterday afternoon and closes on Monday, is part of a $2 million funding round.  In addition to the crowdfunding cash, more than $1 million has been raised from local angel investors, investment firm Pacific Channel, and the Government-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

“With that [$2 million] capital we should be able to demonstrate the clinical feasibility of the product,” Pace said.  “It would take it through the initial clinical trials [in New Zealand].”

Early signs of efficacy have been shown in a patient who has been on Citramel for close to two years.  Pace said it would cost at least $50 million to get Citramel to market.  “We’re designing the [clinical feasibility] study to make it attractive to potential larger groups that could fund it or buy it, such as a venture capital company or a mid to large-sized pharmaceutical company that’s active in the cystic fibrosis area.”

That next stage of investment would probably come from the United States, Pace said.  New Zealand was well placed to run clinical trials of locally developed therapies, but moving into the US market was key to success.  “There’s been a strong resurgence of investment in the biotech industries in the US with last year showing the highest levels of investment in 14 years,” Pace said.  “Kiwi companies are known globally for their ability to innovate and while they seem to understand that US commercialisation in life sciences is key to success, I haven’t seen many make any real impact in this space.”  He said the US biotech industry received US$8.6 billion in investment last year.

“It’s the US’ second biggest sector for investment so this market is key for any New Zealand firm with international aspirations,” Pace said.  “What Kiwis need is a clear US focus from a clinical, regulatory and business perspective, and for that you need people on the ground here with experience. Breathe Easy has that potential.”

Paul Tan, the former chief science and medical officer of ASX-listed Living Cell Technologies, has also joined Breathe Easy as chairman of its scientific advisory board.  Living Cell’s treatments for diseases including Parkinson’s involve transplanting pig cells into humans.

As published in NZ Herald 16 May 2015

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