This article was originally published in Start Up
Immunocept hopes its device approach to sepsis will succeed where drugs have failed. It has developed a large pore filter for an extracorporeal device that filters out unwanted mediators of sepsis from the blood, and returns blood back to the patient.
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Merchant bank The Aethena Group aims to provide a new kind of resource to emerging and middle market companies that need a boost to get to a valuation level that supports investment by traditional investors. One field in need of such support, Aethena believes, is liver disease, which represents enormous untapped markets, but product risk associated with an evolving understanding of liver biology. Aethena hopes to offer strategic options to companies in this industry.
Apart from transplantation, until very recently, there have been no life-saving therapies available for liver failure. Now, one first-generation liver assist device is on the market and others are progressing through both biologic and device clinical trials. Companies with liver assist devices sort into two main groups: companies with dialysis and ultrafiltration systems that improve upon kidney dialysis and fall squarely on the device side of the divide for regulatory purposes, and those that incorporate living cells in a device-biologic combination, which require drug-like approvals. Regardless of the approval process, all companies need compelling efficacy data to convince clinicians and payers of the benefits of a brand new therapy. But the large numbers of variables and unknowns concerning liver function and liver disease have posed considerable obstacles to designing prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trials-a problem highlighted by Circe Biomedical's halting of its large Phase II/III clinical trial for lack of efficacy. There is no question that there is a tremendous need for liver support. What is tantalizing for both companies and investors in this area is that they feel liver assist devices do work-the liver can recover, physiological functions improve, patients with a prognosis of death have survived. But they just haven't been able to prove it yet, not in terms of the only endpoint that really counts at this early stage in the field, improvements in 30-day survival rates.
Benefiting from lessons learned during the more than two decades of futile efforts to develop a sepsis treatment, Lilly is primed to launch the first sepsis therapeutic. Lilly's apparent success reflects a revised view of the disease as multi-factorial in nature, involving not only the body's inflammatory processes--long thought to be at the heart of the disease--but also its interlocking coagulation and clot-busting systems. Zovant's development is also marked by a series of business decisions that could have long-term implications for the company, including a renewed commitment to large molecule drugs and the creation of a critical care business. Critical care pharmaceuticals and protein therapeutics are, in many ways, complementary pursuits for Lilly that could help the company maintain its independence by generating big money products that won't require the huge commercialization costs associated with mass-marketed drugs.