RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Path BioAnalytics (PBA) is teaming up with impact investors and a digital health company to find a cure for pancreatitis.

This week, the Durham precision medicine startup with ties to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced that it had created a “unique research alliance” with Mission: Cure Holdings (MCH) and Ariel Precision Medicine.

The partnership would leverage PBA’s proprietary organoid and artificial intelligence platform with data compiled by Ariel.

MCH, meanwhile, would foot the bill and program manage.

Path BioAnalytics

“This collaboration offers a unique opportunity for the three organizations to work together on a common goal: finding safe and effective treatments for this painful disease,” said PBA’s Chief Executive Officer John Mellnik, Ph.D. “At PBA, we have developed an innovative organoid platform using primary cells to identify and evaluate effective drug treatments for targeted patient populations. We are excited to apply this technology to the alliance.”

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It affects more than a million people globally, for which there is currently no cure.

Mild cases of pancreatitis may go away without treatment, but severe cases can cause severe abdominal pain and nausea, leading to serious digestive problems, diabetes and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The disease impacts people in different ways; and some patterns, known as “subtypes” or “subpopulations,” have been identified that may result from specific genetic mutations and environmental factors.

The goal of this alliance, the companies said, is to develop therapeutics for these pancreatitis subpopulations.

“We launched MCH with the goal of accelerating the development of treatments for pancreatitis,” said Linda Martin, MCH managing member. “From the outset, we saw a need for an organization that could provide more than just research funding.”

Shortly after 2017, Martin joined Mission: Cure as co-director, as she searched for treatment for her daughter Amy, who suffers from chronic pancreatitis.

Today, Mission: Cure – based out of Alexandria, Virginia — is a growing community of patients, families, scientists, clinicians and generous supporters, driving new research, accelerating drug discovery and development.

“Drug development is complex, requiring many types of expertise, plus a strong collaborative spirit amongst partners,” added Martin. “We recognized this need and realized we could help build these relationships and foster new collaborations. We hope that this alliance will encourage others to consider impact investing, and other innovative models, to spur the development of treatments for many other rare and untreatable diseases.”

PBA is a graduate of Launch Chapel Hill, an accelerator program based in Chapel Hill, as well as the Kenan Flagler Business School program formerly known as Launching the Venture (now known as Startup UNC).

The company operates laboratory space in the BioLabs NC incubator in Durham.

PBA has been the beneficiary of UNC initiatives such as KickStart Venture Services and the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise, in addition to the North Carolina Translational Science Institute.

The majority of PBA’s core team are alumni of UNC or Duke.