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R&D News: SMC Biotechnology Publishes Bone Repair Data

SMC Biotechnology, a regenerative medicine company focused on developing carbohydrate compounds that enhance tissue regeneration, recently published data in the online journal, Biomaterials suggesting that its proprietary sugar compound, SMC-103, significantly enhances bone

Researchers found that affinity-selected heparan sulfate (HS) improved bone repair by increasing the bioavailability, bioactivity and half-life of the pro-healing compound, bone morphogenetic protein-2
(BMP-2). SMC-103 is a glycosaminoglycan, or GAG, a naturally occurring substance composed of chains of paired sugar units. SMC-103 is under development for use as an orthopedic agent for long bone healing and spinal fusion. SMC Biotechnology will conduct clinical trials to develop this technology in 2014.

"This is the first time that an affinity-isolated sugar has been used to aid the body's natural repair processes," said Simon Cool, Ph.D., co-founder of SMC Biotechnology and lead investigator. "When bone is damaged, BMP-2 is produced by the body to begin the healing process. However, the presence of this powerful pro-healing growth factor is not always enough to ensure effective repair. By applying our cost-effective sugar compound to bind the BMP-2 produced by the body at the site of the trauma, we found that we were able to successfully accelerate healing of a bone injury. This could have strong implications in the clinic and shows that a sugar device can be used to promote bone healing rather than the use of a bone graft taken from the patients' hip bone or the application of extra BMP-2, both of which are associated with unwanted side effects."

The study was conducted by researchers at the Glycotherapeutics Group, Institute of Medical Biology at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. To develop a specific GAG for bone repair, Dr. Cool and Victor Nurcombe, Ph.D., co-founder of SMC Biotechnology, and fellow researchers formulated a peptide-based affinity platform to isolate a unique BMP-2 binding HS variant from commercially available preparations of HS to ensure the translation into the clinic would be cost-effective. Their theory was that the HS variant, once bound to BMP-2 produced by the body at the site of a bone injury, would prolong the growth factor's half-life and enhance its bioactivity.

When the HS variant was delivered into critical-sized bone defects in preclinical studies, it enhanced bone healing at levels comparable to BMP-2 therapy alone. The study showed that BMP-2 binds to HS with a greater affinity than other sulfated GAGs, and that the unique characteristics of HS variants isolated based on growth factor affinity, validate this technology as a platform with high therapeutic utility.

"The finding that this specific heparan sulfate compound alone is enough to promote tissue regeneration is exciting," said Professor Birgit Lane, Ph.D., executive director, Institute of Medical Biology at A*STAR. "This discovery has great potential to not only improve tissue repair by enhancing the body's own healing mechanism, but may also help eliminate the need for overuse of exogenous growth factors like BMP-2, which can lead to unwanted side effects."

SMC Biotechnology licensed this novel platform technology from A*STAR. Through an exclusive agreement with A*STAR, SMC Biotechnology was spun off from the Institute of Medical Biology in 2010 to commercialize a library of breakthrough GAG compounds that preferentially bind to separate pro-healing factors. SMC Biotechnology is currently developing SMC-103 for long bone healing and spinal fusion as an alternative to bone graft and bone graft substitutes.

"The collaboration between A*STAR and SMC Biotechnology has been uniquely productive for both parties," says Michael Crockett, co-founder and CEO of SMC Biotechnology. "Our collaboration with A*STAR has allowed us to streamline the development of a pipeline of carbohydrates products, including a number of potential therapies that would be first-in-class in the world. SMC Biotechnology's important relationship with A*STAR will generate many successful therapeutic strategies to fulfill multiple unmet medical needs in tissue regeneration worldwide. We look forward to taking the next step of studying SMC-103 in human bone repair with clinical trials in 2014."

SMC Biotechnology is headquartered in Redwood City, Calif.

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