RTP’s APIE Therapeutics Signs Pact to Develop RTI International Heart, Lung Drug Prospects

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A newly established high-powered Research Triangle Park company, APIE Therapeutics, has signed a licensing agreement with RTI International to develop a class of RTI-developed compounds targeting heart failure and lung disease.

Under the agreement, APIE obtained exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and sell RTI’s apelin receptor agonist therapeutic candidates to treat the rare lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The new partners did not disclose terms of the agreement.

It’s a lot of abbreviations. But APIE CEO Esther Alegria, Ph.D., has no problem wading through them. She credits the collaborative and ever-expanding network of biopharma companies and scientific institutions in North Carolina’s Research Triangle area for making the agreement possible.

“RTI had successfully completed worldwide intellectual property protection of their research work on the apelinergic system, apelin agonist compound portfolio and pre-clinical studies of apelin agonists for IPF and heart failure indications,” she explained.

Esther Alegria, Ph.D., APIE CEO
Esther Alegria, Ph.D., APIE CEO
-- APIE photo

“Their team was looking for entrepreneurs to commercialize it, while our entrepreneurs were in search of a novel and cutting-edge pathway for best-in-class therapies to develop, in order to bring improved health outcomes and options for patients around the world.”

Alegria connected the dots. She brings some three decades of pharmaceutical leadership to APIE, much of it built in the Triangle area. Among her many badges, she has served as senior vice president of global manufacturing at Biogen, following a stint as vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s Research Triangle Park site, after serving as the site’s director of quality.

Now she and her APIE team are girding to focus on the battle against IPF. It’s a progressive and often fatal disease characterized by scarring of the lungs that thickens the lung lining, causing an irreversible loss of the tissue’s ability to transport oxygen. According to APIE, 80,000 people die from IPF in the U.S. each year, more deaths than from breast cancer.

RTI’s compounds interact with the apelin receptor, which is found in the cell membrane of several organs in humans and animals. According to RTI, research suggests that stimulation of apelin receptors can promote cell survival and generation, in addition to limiting airway damage.

APIE sees great potential for the RTI-developed compounds as it develops a portfolio of anti-fibrosis therapies. While the company continues to work on the development of treatments that address the relationship between the apelin receptor and pulmonary, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, the IPF indication is the closest to being tested in human trials.

“We are excited about moving this program forward given the strong need for better health outcomes,” said Alegria. “There are only two available drugs on the market, and both provide limited health outcomes.”

RTI is on the record with an expectation that the partnership will result in positive outcomes for patients.

“We are excited for future possible life-improving and life-saving outcomes that may come from our compounds entering the APIE Therapeutics portfolio,” said Allen Mangel, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of Discovery Services and RTI Health solutions

And as a result, APIE Therapeutics is fully open and ready to investor funding to support the company’s preclinical studies.

Mindy Hamlin, NCBioech Writer
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