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Insight Center: News

Pepper Helps Client GEn1E Lifesciences Accelerate Therapeutic Treatment for Leading Cause of COVID-19 Deaths - ARDS

Pepper Helps Client GEn1E Lifesciences Accelerate Therapeutic Treatment for Leading Cause of COVID-19 Deaths - ARDS

According to a study published in Lancet, a vast majority of serious COVID-19 patients have Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS, a devastating inflammatory condition that occurs when an incredibly strong immune response causes the lungs to fill with fluid, making it impossible for a patient to breathe.

There is currently no approved drug for treatment for ARDS, which is the leading cause of death in COVID-19 cases. ARDS has a mortality rate of 40 percent, and costs the U.S. health system $20 billion every year.

A client of Pepper Hamilton's Emerging Growth Practice, GEn1E Lifesciences, is building a platform for therapeutic drug treatments for inflammatory and age-related diseases starting with ARDS.

Ritu Lal, PhD, GEn1E's founding CEO, has extensive background in drug development. She has taken drugs from discovery through Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval three times and worked on a previous generation of the current compound that GEn1E is exploring. Lal has formed a world-class team of 15 of the top ARDS experts. Results have been promising: In preclinical trials, the compound had been shown to stabilize cells in the lungs, which helps build the lining of the lungs to keep fluid from entering.

Lal obtained an exclusive, all fields, worldwide license from the University of Maryland (UMB). That's where Pepper attorneys Timothy C. Atkins, partner, and Christopher Hagenbuch, special counsel, came in.

When the time came for GEn1E to begin the licensing process from UMB, Lal chose to go with Pepper for its domain expertise in the biotech space, as well as its ability to keep pace with a startup and its high velocity needs.

Pepper's Emerging Growth Practice has been helping entrepreneurs and emerging-growth businesses like GEn1E for many years. Attorneys provide these clients with expert legal advice that is practical, responsive and cost-effective, and help guide them through the challenges of their formative years — addressing issues such as business formation, intellectual property, data security and many more. The Pepper SEED Program gives approved companies access to an affordable package of resources as they grow.

"Tim is a rock star," said Lal. "Tim and the Pepper team have been phenomenal to work with as they are true collaborators and their depth of expertise helped with efficiency. We felt it was a genuine partnership and a true team effort."

The Pepper team collaborated with GEn1E to negotiate an agreement, said Lal, and they continue to provide their counsel in a number of areas as GEn1E forms strategic partnerships as it builds its platform.

"For GEn1E, we've done everything from negotiating investment agreements to offering guidance on fundraising," said Hagenbuch. "We're currently working with them on a number of strategic projects as well."

Dr. Lal is confident that Pepper's guidance and collaboration will help them achieve their milestones. "Everyone says they want to work with a startup, but not many can meet that pace or have the level of expertise," she said. "Pepper provides the support to make it happen."

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