HCN News & Notes

UMass, Anika Therapeutics Collaborate on Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

AMHERST — A new agreement to extend a two-year-long strategic collaboration that yielded a promising new modality for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was announced by Anika Therapeutics Inc., of Bedford, Mass., a global, integrated orthopedic medicines company specializing in therapeutics based on its proprietary hyaluronic acid technology, and the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at UMass Amherst.

In the next phase of this collaboration, Anika and UMass will focus on research to optimize the drug-delivery system with the goal of advancing a novel therapeutic candidate into clinical trials to support regulatory submission.

“We’re excited to renew our partnership with UMass Amherst and its world-renowned research faculty to continue developing a targeted, localized therapy that could address an unmet medical need in rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Charles Sherwood, CEO of Anika Therapeutics. “Our collective efforts to date have produced a promising therapeutic candidate, encompassing a novel drug-delivery system for which patent protection is being sought. We’re confident that the next phase of this collaboration, which will focus on formulating our lead candidate and preparing for clinical development, will prove equally fruitful and advance Anika’s mission to deliver novel therapies that address the full continuum of orthopedic care.”

The initial success of the university’s collaboration with Anika “is solid evidence that industry allying with academia can drive game-changing innovation and accelerate the pace of development,” said Mike Malone, UMass vice chancellor for Research and Engagement.

Added Peter Reinhart, director of IALS at UMass Amherst, “we are looking forward to further advancing innovative discoveries from UMass laboratories with expertise in inflammation and novel drug-delivery technology and therapeutic cargo combinations, to bring much-needed treatment options to people living with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that manifests itself in multiple joints of the body. The inflammatory process primarily affects the lining of the joints (synovial membrane), but can also affect other organs. The inflamed synovium leads to erosion of cartilage and bone, which can lead to joint deformity. RA imposes enormous physical and economic burdens on affected individuals, as well as society at large. As the population in the U.S. continues to age, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 78 million individuals, or roughly 25{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the U.S. adult population, will be diagnosed with RA by the year 2040.

IALS translates life-science research into products and services that improve human health in collaboration with industry partners. IALS also trains an entrepreneurial workforce skilled in the discovery, development, and manufacture of medical devices, biomolecules, and delivery vehicles for the life sciences. The Institute, involving more than 120 UMass faculty members, is organized into three centers — the Center for Bioactive Delivery, the Models to Medicine Center, and the Center for Personalized Health Monitoring.