University News

University and Quercis Pharma Sign Exclusive Worldwide License Agreements

Published: May 20, 2021 | Categories: Pharmacy and Health Sciences, All News

University owned research patents will expand Quercis’ antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory pipeline in a variety of indications including COVID-19 and neurological conditions

closeup of biopharm lab work

Quercis Pharma AG, a private, clinical stage biopharmaceutical company, has signed a worldwide license agreement with Western New England University (WNE) of Springfield, Massachusetts for the exclusive rights to develop and market Zafirlukast in a variety of medical indications. Specific terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Zafirlukast is in a class of medications known as leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) that work by blocking the action of certain natural substances that cause swelling and tightening of the airways. Zafirlukast (Accolate®) was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996 for the prophylaxis and chronic treatment of asthma in adults and children 12 years of age or older. As of March 2018, the product is no longer marketed for this indication.

Zafirlukast has also been shown to be a novel, potent, broad-spectrum thiol isomerase (TI) inhibitor, with wide ranging effects on platelet function, thrombosis and integrin-mediated cell migration.

The research discoveries in these patents were developed in the laboratories of Chair and Associate Professor of Pharmacology at WNE, Daniel Kennedy, Ph.D., in cooperation with Jonathan Gibbins, Ph.D., at University of Reading, UK.

"We are honored to partner with Quercis to continue the clinical development of Zafirlukast as an antithrombotic agent," stated Dr. Kennedy. "Our partnership is another testament to the international impact of our science and research occurring within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at WNE. We have worked tirelessly over the past eight years with our partners to bring this discovery through the drug development process, culminating in a Phase II clinical trial and are ecstatic to partner with Quercis to continue our research."

Quercis Pharma AG plans to evaluate Zafirlukast in a variety of indications both as a single drug therapy and in combination with the Company's lead antithrombotic product candidate, Kinisoquin, which in a Phase 2 clinical trial demonstrated evidence of reduced levels of key markers of coagulation without producing clotting or major bleeding events.

"We are looking forward to continuing to collaborate with WNE to further elucidate Zafirlukast's antithrombotic activity and to advancing Zafirlukast in a number of important medical indications, including COVID-19 and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)," stated Stefan Wohlfeil, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Quercis Pharma.

"We believe the synergistic mechanisms of action between Zafirlukast and isoquercetin have the potential to shut down certain upstream effects of overactive protein expression, which damages endothelial cells and releases Protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) into the bloodstream, while also providing key inhibitors to the downstream effects of P-selectin and PDI. This could be a powerful combination therapy for a number of diseases where multimodal mechanisms are needed," adds Wohlfeil.

Also included in the license agreement is a second patent developed in the laboratories of Dr. Kennedy and Associate Professor of Pharmacology at WNE, Clinton Mathias, Ph.D. "The interest of Quercis Pharma in the patents produced at WNE are yet another example of how the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is continuing to evolve as both a leader in Pharmacy and Health Sciences education, and innovative applied research in collaboration with industry partners," said John M. Pezzuto, Ph.D., D.Sc., Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at WNE. "The efforts of Professors Kennedy and Mathias, combined with the resources planned to be provided by Quercis Pharma, are aimed at giving healthcare providers important new therapeutics in the treatment of a broad range respiratory and neurological illness."

The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences educates future-focused leaders in the health and wellness fields through innovative doctoral, master's, and dual degree programs. Collaborative faculty research, including research with students, is a hallmark of the masters and doctoral experience.

"This license, along with our recently announced license agreement with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for patents related to key thrombotic inhibitor pathways for isoquercetin, expands our development pipeline with a synergistic product candidate that alone and in combination with our lead drug can address a multitude of unmet medical needs in markets with large opportunities," noted Thomas Lines, founder and board member of Quercis Pharma. "Importantly, it strengthens our patent portfolio, supports the creation of new intellectual property and creates value across the pipeline."

"Innovation and discovery are at the very core of the entrepreneurial mindset we espouse at Western New England University," said Robert E. Johnson, President of WNE. "Our partnership with Quercis Pharma serves to expedite the process from discovery to treatment with the potential to save lives. There can be no better example and inspiration for our students than to witness that process unfold through the efforts of Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Mathias."

About Quercis Pharma AG
Quercis Pharma AG is a private, biopharmaceutical company based in Zug, Switzerland.  Quercis Pharma is advancing a development pipeline of late-stage clinical studies that focus on the prevention of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in cancer patients. In addition, Quercis targets other diseases associated with thrombotic events, such as sickle cell disease (SCD), Ebola and COVID-19.  The Company’s lead drug candidate acts as an antithrombotic with significantly lower risk of adverse events than existing treatments.  Quercis plans to initiate two Phase 3 studies for the prevention of VTE in pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma patients and will pursue U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the prevention of VTE in all cancer types based on these studies.  In addition, the Company is preparing to conduct a number of studies for the treatment of SCD (Phase 2) and COVID-19 (Phase 2/3).