Hemogenyx (LON:HEMO) launching products that could treat bone marrow transplants without chemotherapy

By @chelean on
Aastrom Biosciences Research Associate Judith Schmitt removes tissue culture and harvest solution from a centrifuge tube in the laboratory at their headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan November 29, 2011. Reuters/Rebecca Cook

Two soon-to-be-launched products could change the way we treat bone marrow transplants. Biotech start-up Hemogenyx hopes that patients needing a bone marrow or a blood stem cell transplant will have increased chances of survival.

Where it all started

In 2012, Dr Vladislav Sandler wondered if the same blood cells responsible for mammalian development existed in adults. While working at Weill Cornell Medical College, he proved that these cells — Adult Hemogenic Endothelial (AHE) cells — were not lost at birth after all. These AHE cells would, later on, be pivotal in the creation of Hemogenyx and its technologies.

Launched the following year, Hemogenyx is a biotech company that promises to deliver novel and more effective treatments for blood diseases.

Conditioning with no side effects

Hemogenyx aims to revolutionise major bone marrow transplants in two stages: conditioning and the actual transplant. In the conditioning phase, Hemogenyx’s product is a lot better than undergoing chemotherapy since it has no severe side effects. In lieu of chemotherapy, patients will be administered with CDX antibodies. Since it does not involve radiation, the presence of toxicity is effectively eliminated. Preparation of human clinical trials for CDX antibodies conditioning will be complete within 18 months.

Consider these side-effects of chemotherapy: hair loss, damage to the heart and lungs due to radiation, fertility and thyroid problems, damage to bones, and a weakened immune system. On top of those, it is a costly procedure that does not guarantee survival. Some patients even have relapses despite undergoing chemotherapy and believing they got rid of cancer earlier.

According to the company, those side effects will be gone with the administration of CDX antibodies. It also apparently has a high potential to eliminate the cancerous cells and lower chances of a relapse.

Perfect transplant match in no time

Meanwhile, in the transplant phase, the patients will be given the Hu-PHEC or postnatal hemogenic endothelial cells. Also called adult hemogenic endothelial (AHE) cells, these were the special kind of cells that Sandler discovered. They can be extracted from the patient’s liver and umbilical cord or placenta. Then they would be purified to become the blood stem cells that will be transplanted back.

This seemingly simple but heavily researched and tested procedure means there is no need to find a donor and wait for compatibility results. A patient will be his or her own donor. In the battle against any disease, blood cancers in particular, the sooner the treatment is applied, the higher the chances of a patient’s survival.

Add to that the risk of transplant rejection — it is basically nil as the patient is his or her own donor. The time saved from looking for donors and the automatic matching for transplant will save s lot of lives.

The two revolutionary treatments from Hemogenyx are complementary but they can also stand alone with other traditional methods. Hemogenyx has been tagged as FDA’s orphan drug designation for Hu-PHEC to treat aplastic anaemia, a rare blood disease. Hu-PHEC or AHE cells work by generating new cells and help improve the blood system, white blood cells and platelets.

Both CDX antibodies and Hu-PHEC have received Proof of Concept after they were tested on laboratory mice and results revealed the effectiveness. Meanwhile, patents for both products have been applied and are pending approval.

The global BM/HSC transplant needs

Sandler and Hemogenyx’s ground-breaking discoveries to make these technologies available have earned praise and recognitions in the biotechnology industry. Hemogenyx was one of the 11 winners of the prestigious 43North Business Idea competition in 2014, beating 7,000 other entries. Sandler received an initial seed capital in return for his feat. In that same year, he also received the Daedalus Award for Innovation for his scientific discoveries.

To start bringing their products into the market, Hemogenyx completed a merger deal with Silver Falcon, a London-based shell company. Silver Falcon has started trading under the name Hemogenyx Pharmaceuticals with the ticker symbol (LON:HEMO).

Hemogenyx is expected to lead the way for the global bone marrow transplant market. The market within the US and Europe is currently estimated to be at US$8-9 billion (AU$10.31-11.60 billion). In the US, 1.1 million people are getting blood cancers every year. Those numbers will only increase as time goes by. These scientific breakthroughs are hoped to forever change the way people deal with cancer and blood diseases.

“Various forms of cancer such as multiple myeloma, acute leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and solid tumours are treated with bone marrow transplants. With improving cancer care, the CDC expects the number of cancer survivors to witness a strong increase from 11.7 million in 2007 to 18 million by 2020,” Sapna Jha, a lead analyst at Technavio for research on infectious and rare diseases, said.