DAYTON, N.J., Aug. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Phytomedics Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company discovering and developing novel botanical therapeutics, is pleased to announce the signing of a five-year $4.3 million research and licensing agreement to continue its working relationship with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. This agreement funds the work conducted under the leadership of Professor Ilya Raskin, at the Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment on Rutgers' Cook College campus in exchange for the right to exclusively license the technologies and products developed in Raskin's laboratory. As a result of this agreement, Rutgers acquired close to $1 million in Phytomedics' stock.
"The continuation of this relationship with one of the world's leading research centers in the areas of plant biotechnology and biopharmaceutical development is an important cornerstone for Phytomedics," said Dr. Bertold Fridlender, President and CEO of Phytomedics, Inc. "Access to cutting edge science performed by an internationally renowned research team within the infrastructure of a major research university will help Phytomedics to become a leader in the botanical therapeutic segment of the biotechnology industry. Rutgers, besides being a shareholder in Phytomedics, will also benefit by receiving research grants, impacting New Jersey economic development, marketing the discoveries of its leading faculty and receiving royalties from the company."
Phytomedics is a unique and innovative biopharmaceutical company that utilizes plant biotechnology, phytochemistry, and state-of-the-art plant cultivation and processing methods for the development of innovative plant-based products for human health care that include botanical drugs and plant-produced recombinant proteins. The new U.S. FDA botanical drug guidelines will allow companies such as Phytomedics to develop safe and effective multi-mechanism therapeutics faster and at lower cost than conventional, single-ingredient new chemical entities (NCEs). "Botanical drugs are multicomponent plant extracts that have unique pharmacological profiles, strong intellectual property protection, and safety based on their natural origin and history of human use," says Fridlender. "One of the key advantages of botanical drugs is the synergy between various compounds present in a plant extract, something conventional NCE drugs lack.
Phytomedics' most advanced botanical drug product is currently in the Phase II stage of clinical development for the treatment of autoimmune disorders. The company's second botanical drug candidate, developed at Rutgers, is currently entering clinical trials. It has shown a powerful ability to selectively stimulate apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells and protect the body from a range of carcinogenic substances.
Another core area of Phytomedics' business is the plant-based production of recombinant proteins, such as antibodies, cytokines and vaccines. The current scarcity of manufacturing capacity for these protein drugs makes low-cost, fast and efficient transgenic plant systems very appealing. "Most major groups of human pharmaceutical proteins have been successfully produced in a diverse variety of crops," says Fridlender. "However, current techniques for producing plant-based protein therapeutics utilize field-grown plants extracted after harvest. This approach is inefficient and potentially environmentally dangerous. REPOST technology, one of the tools licensed from Rutgers, uses greenhouse-grown plants to synthesize and continuously secrete large quantities of biopharmaceutical proteins from their roots into a hydroponic solution. The system, somewhat analogous to natural maple syrup or rubber production, is faster, higher yielding and better controlled than a 'harvest and extract' method." Phytomedics is currently working on the production of a variety of pharmaceutical proteins in cooperation with several large pharmaceutical companies.