A high-profile collaboration announced today by Durham biopharmaceutical company Spyryx Biosciences is the latest in a string of breathtaking announcements by three young Durham companies with promising treatments for deadly lung diseases.
Significantly, the companies have all relied on early support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to help their quest to transform academic research into marketable products to fight respiratory diseases such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
Spyryx, which just moved out of temporary rental space at NCBiotech headquarters in Research Triangle Park into more permanent quarters nearby on Capitola Drive in Durham, became the second company in recent weeks to establish a collaboration with the esteemed Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics, a non-profit that helps in the development of promising new CF treatments and understandings.
The message is in the matchup
John Taylor, Spyryx president and CEO, declined to discuss financial details of the agreement, noting that the significance of this initial collaboration is in the partnership rather than the dollars.
For some startup companies, that might seem hard to imagine. But Spyryx also just announced an $18 million Series A investment from a venture capital syndicate in May, 2015. So there’s credibility to Taylor’s pronouncement that this tie-in with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is pivotal for more than the money. It’s access to credibility, and to the foundation’s resource-rich support for advancing technologies that might turn the battle against CF.
“We appreciate the generous support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and are looking forward to working closely with them as we advance our program toward clinical development,” Taylor said. He added that he expects this agreement to span about six months.
NCBiotech liked what Spyryx was doing
NCBiotech also liked what Spyryx was doing, by boosting the company with a $50,000 Company Inception Loan in late 2014 to help Spyryx in its 2013 spinout from the globally respected CF team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Another UNC spinout headquartered nearby in Durham, Parion Sciences, transformed NCBiotech grant funding to UNC CF researchers into big news a month ago, when Parion sold rights to two of its experimental CF drugs for as much as $1.2 billion, plus royalties. That agreement was with Boston’s Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded company that recently launched a major new CF therapy funded in part by none other than the very same Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that just supported Spyryx.
And another Durham company brought University of Miami lung disease treatment technology to the Triangle with the help of NCBiotech. Heat Biologics is starting a new phase one-b trial of its lead product, Viagenpumatucel-L (HS-110) to treat non-small cell lung cancer.
NC provided the best fit for Heat Biologics
Professionals at NCBiotech helped Heat CEO Jeff Wolf move the company to North Carolina after he explored several states as possible corporate homes for Heat, and found the best fit here. After Wolf decided North Carolina was the right place to relocate his company, NCBiotech specialists worked closely with him not only to provide initial rental housing for his company, but also to help him hone his pitch to investors. He subsequently joined NCBiotech Business and Technology Development specialists and CEOs of other life science start-ups on NCBiotech-led visits to venture capital companies in Palo Alto and Boston.
NCBiotech provided Heat its first outside funding, a $225,000 Strategic Growth Loan. That opened doors to more investment opportunity. Heat was able to repay the loan well ahead of schedule as other investment support came in. Heat got another boost from one of NCBiotech’s $3,000 industrial intern awards in 2012, to help it reach the public-trading milestone of an initial public offering of stock on the NASDAQ exchange. By the time of the IPO offering of 2.5 million shares at $10 apiece, Heat had also garnered some $5 million in other outside investment, and even more fundraising has followed.
(C) NC Biotechnology Center
Note: Veteran journalist Jim Shamp is director of public relations for the N.C. Biotechnology Center.