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Clinical, Drug Discovery Biotech Companies Announce Merger

Vaughn Smider

Vaughn Smider (Scripps Research Institute)

Senesco Technologies, a clinical stage biotechnology company  in Bridgewater, New Jersey says it has a non-binding merger agreement with Fabrus Inc. in La Jolla, California, a drug-discovery biotechnology firm. Financial details of the merger were not disclosed, although the companies plan to reveal the terms when they finalize the agreement in early 2014.

Senesco develops cancer therapies based on a process that regulates apoptosis, or programmed cell death, using genetic signals to promote or inhibit proteins affecting apoptosis. Cancer cells resist apoptosis, causing them to proliferate out of control.

The company’s  lead product is a therapy code-named SNS01-T currently in clinical trials for multiple myeloma, a blood plasma cancer. The drug has two types of genetic matter regulating eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A (eIF5A), a gene affecting proteins that encourage proliferation of multiple myeloma cells. The drug also has a polymer that promotes self-assembly of the therapy into nanoparticles for delivery to the affected tissues.

Fabrus Inc. develops high-throughput screening technologies to identify antibodies that address G-protein-coupled receptors or GPCRs on the membrane surfaces of cells as targets. This screening technique, says Fabrus, is particularly suited for difficult to treat diseases.The company has also assembled several antibodies for further development.

“Fabrus antibodies could complement our eIF5A gene regulatory platform,” says Senesco CEO Leslie Browne in a company statement, “which has been shown to kill cancer cells, by directing nanoparticle-based therapeutics to the cells of interest.”

Fabrus was founded in 2007 by Vaughn Smider, a molecular biologist on the faculty of Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. Smider is also the current company president. Fabrus was the first occupant of Pfizer’s science incubator in La Jolla, which was spun out in 2010. Pfizer and pharma/diagnostics company OPKO Health continue to hold equity stakes in the company, but Fabrus owns all intellectual property rights to its discoveries.

Under the merger agreement, current shareholders of Senesco and Fabrus will receive 50 percent of combined companies. Fabrus is expected to merge with a subsidiary of Senesco.

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