Heart-healing seaweed gel gets $282 million deal

Israeli company BioLineRx's BL-1040 compound repairs damaged heart muscles after cardiac arrest.

seaweed 88 248 (photo credit: )
seaweed 88 248
(photo credit: )
It is the most expensive seaweed known to medical history: a new heart-healing gel based on brown seaweed has just been rewarded with a record investment deal. Israeli company BioLineRx, founded in 2003, just released the news that one of its two compounds - the BL-1040 - to repair damaged heart muscles after cardiac arrest, has been licensed by the New Jersey-based company Ikaria Holdings in a $282.5 million deal, which doesn't include royalties. It's the first big deal for BioLineRx. The latest trial, spokesperson Dganit Bar says, is a clinical trial consisting of 23 patients in Germany and Belgium. "They are doing fine," she says. Toxicity tests have shown the product is safe, and "we did have some hints on its efficacy," she adds, stressing the main points were safety. "We also have extensive pre-clinical data and saw that it was very effective in preventative cardiac remodeling," says Bar. "The BL-1040 is injected in the body in the occluded vessel; it gets into the ischemic tissue and turns into a gel from a liquid which - like a solid - prevents the heart from dilating and prevents damage." Jointly invented by Prof. Smadar Cohen from Ben-Gurion University and Prof. Jonathan Leor from Tel Aviv University, BioLineRx had in-licensed the technology in 2005 from Ben-Gurion University, which then owned the rights to the patent. Based on a common brown seaweed with other active ingredients, Bar believes that the product now financed by Ikaria could see very swift development: the compound could be ready for use as early as 2012. The relatively quick time to reach the pubic market has to do with the fact that it is being marketed as a medical device and not a drug, says Bar. "Ikaria will fund the rest of the studies, and since we have experience [with the compound] we will form a joint committee and be a part of the new clinical trial," says Bar. Ikaria Holdings is a biotherapeutics company. Its lead product INOmax is a nitric oxide inhalation product, the only one regulated for the treatment of hypoxic respiratory failure in term and near-term newborns. The company also owns the North American rights to terlipressin, currently under review by the FDA for treating hepatorenal syndrome Type 1. Daniel Tassé, the president and CEO of Ikaria said in a press announcement: "The acquisition of the rights to BL-1040 reinforces our commitment to deliver novel treatments to critically ill patients around the world." And hopefully coming to heal hearts near you. The orignal version of this article first appeared in Israel21c.