Baxter International has announced the acquisition of US biopharmaceutical company AesRx, including development and commercialisation of AesRx’s investigational sickle cell disease treatment Aes-103.

AesRx has received initial payment from Baxter for the acquisition and the company may receive additional future payments based on specified development, regulatory and commercial milestones.

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An oral, small molecule compound (5-hydroxymethylfurfural), Aes-103 was developed by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery and the compound is originally patented by VCU.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug designation for Aes-103, which is also eligible for this status in Europe.

"We believe this will provide Aes-103 the needed resources and expertise to complete a robust development and commercialisation programme."

Early studies indicated that Aes-103 may work by binding to hemoglobin and increasing oxygen affinity and stabilisation, reducing the sickling of red blood cells, which may reduce sickling-related outcomes such as vaso-occlusive crisis, pain, severe anemia, and fatigue.

The Aes-103 programme is currently in a Phase II clinical trial as part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases programme.

Data from an escalating dose Phase I/IIa safety study involving administration of a single dose among stable sickle cell disease patients was already reported.

Baxter BioScience president Ludwig Hantson said: "This programme is complementary to our established experience in hemophilia and supports our goals to raise the bar for care of patients with a range of blood-related disorders."

AesRx’s founder and former CEO Stephen Seiler said: "By becoming a part of Baxter’s organization, we believe this will provide Aes-103 the needed resources and expertise to complete a robust development and commercialisation programme."

Image: Scanning Electron Micrograph showing a mixture of cells, some with round normal morphology, some with mild sickling showing elongation and bending. Photo: courtesy of NIDDK.