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RTI International Licenses Portfolio of Compounds to APIE Therapeutics

The agreement advances APIE Therapeutics’ pursuit of a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a rare lung disease

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and APIE Therapeutics, a biopharma start-up based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., on Tuesday announced a licensing agreement for a portfolio of apelin receptor agonist compounds developed by RTI for their potential use in the development of a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare lung disease, and heart failure.

Under the terms of the license agreement, which was facilitated by RTI’s Commercialization team, APIE Therapeutics receives worldwide exclusive rights under RTI patents and patent applications to develop, manufacture and sell therapeutic candidates for treatment of IPF, heart failure and other diseases. The agreement grants RTI a financial stake in APIE Therapeutics.

“Our team in Discovery Sciences, due to their hard work and innovation, was able to forge a relationship with APIE Therapeutics. We are excited for future possible life-improving and life-saving outcomes that may result from our compounds entering the APIE Therapeutics portfolio. We look forward to discoveries in the future,” said Allen Mangel, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Discovery Sciences and RTI Health Solutions.

The compounds developed by RTI researchers interact with the apelin receptor, which is found in the cell membrane of several organs in humans and animals. Research suggests that stimulation of apelin receptors can promote cell survival and regeneration, in addition to limiting airway damage.

“Our mission at APIE Therapeutics is to develop a portfolio of anti-fibrosis therapies to bring improved health outcomes to patients across the world. Our initial target therapy is IPF, and we intend to start clinical trials in the U.S. in early 2022,” said Esther Alegria, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer at APIE Therapeutics.

IPF is a fatal disease that causes scarring and destruction of lung tissue, which subsequently leads to loss of lung function. It is most common in older adults. The disease has an estimated survival rate of 2-5 years from diagnosis and 30-40,000 new cases of IPF are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. 

“As a pulmonologist caring for patients with IPF, and as a researcher focused on the molecular mechanisms of lung injury, repair and fibrosis, I am excited to support APIE Therapeutics as an advisor to advance the translation of the lead compounds to the clinic and bring much needed therapies to IPF patients,” said Jonathan Kropski, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Cell & Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

RTI will continue to provide technical support to APIE Therapeutics during the development process.

“We see significant follow-on potential of these compounds in other important diseases such as heart failure and metabolic syndrome,” added Scott Runyon, Ph.D., Senior Director of the Center for Drug Discovery at RTI. “We are exploring these possibilities through ongoing research at RTI.”  

Financial terms of the agreement will not be disclosed.