Rare Daily Staff
After a series of pipeline failures, Auris Medical is changing its name, stock ticker, and therapeutic focus in conjunction with the acquisition of privately held Trasir Therapeutics, a preclinical biotech developing a platform for extrahepatic oligonucleotide delivery.
The combined company will rebrand as Altamira Therapeutics, upon approval by shareholders, and shares will start trading under the ticker symbol “CYTO” instead of “EARS”.
The purchase price for Trasir comprises 0.77 million common shares of Auris, the assumption of certain selling shareholders’ cash outlays as well as a future share-based payment contingent on reaching a specific development milestone. The transaction, which closed on June 1, 2021, is the starting point for a strategic repositioning under which the company intends to focus on the development of RNA therapeutics while in the medium term aiming to spin off or divest its existing assets in neurotology, rhinology and allergology.
Samuel Wickline, Trasir’s founder and professor of medicine, has been appointed chief scientific officer of the combined company.
“Following a thorough review of various strategic options, we are very excited to enter with the Trasir acquisition the field of oligonucleotide delivery, which we believe will provide us with a new range of RNA-based therapeutics with disruptive potential,” said Thomas Meyer, Auris Medical’s founder, chairman and CEO. “The global market for RNA therapeutics has been growing fast, exceeding $1 billion in 2020. However, appropriate delivery technologies have remained a key rate-limiting step for unlocking their potential. Trasir’s groundbreaking OligoPhore technology allows for effective delivery of RNA payloads to tissues beyond the liver, which is inadequately addressed with current delivery approaches.
Trasir was founded in 2014 by Wickline based on extensive NIH-sponsored research on technologies that enable safe and effective oligonucleotide delivery to extrahepatic tissues at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Its core technology is the proprietary peptide polyplex platform OligoPhore that can engage any type of RNA in rapid self-assembly. OligoPhore allows for safe and effective systemic delivery of oligonucleotide payloads with efficient cellular uptake and full endosomal release, and enables delivery to target tissues outside the liver, creating the potential for developing RNA-based therapies for a range of indications with substantial unmet need.
In various murine models of disease, OligoPhore has been shown to protect the RNA payload (siRNA and/or mRNA) from degradation in the circulation, while enabling pH-dependent nucleotide endosomal escape and cytoplasmic delivery. Proof-of-concept for efficient delivery and target knockdown has been demonstrated for targets in the NF-kB family, various members of the ETS transcription factor family, and targets in the JNK and TAM pathways, enabling a preclinical development pathway for several oncology indications, rare diseases, as well as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and inflammatory pathologies such as atherosclerosis.
Based on the extensive work of Wickline and collaborators, Altamira intends to initiate a first pipeline program in an oncology or rare disease indication. The submission of an IND is targeted for the end of 2022. In parallel, Altamira will explore further potential applications of the OligoPhore platform for delivery of siRNA, mRNA and gene editing constructs, and seek to leverage the platform’s potential through strategic partnering.
Photo: Thomas Meyer, Auris Medical’s founder, chairman, and CEO