Spotlight on: DeNovX
New therapies, new solutions
for drug developers
For over 2 million people worldwide who suffer from ulcerative colitis (UC), relief is hard to find - and often comes at a high cost.
"Right now, this life-changing disease is treated initially with variations on a 60-year-old drug," says Andrew Bond, co-founder of DeNovX
where team members are working on a promising new alternative.
"When that first drug fails -- which it does for more than one-third of UC patients -- more expensive and aggressive therapies are used, with potentially life-altering side effects," Bond explains. "This high first-line failure rate and rapid escalation in side effects represents an unmet medical need, and we are presently seeking financing to address that need."
DeNovX's team at the Tech Park, from left: Illinois Tech intern Jerry Sha, CFO Jeffrey Mistarz, scientist Kyle Nordquist and COO Andrew Bond. Not pictured: CEO Kevin Schaab, who heads DeNovX's California location.
The company joined University Technology Park in 2015 after reaching several key milestones in its early development. First was the exclusive licensing of 5 patents based on R&D conducted here at Illinois Tech, all focused on formulation and manufacturing methods to accelerate drug development research.
Deep background in pharma R&D
Bond and company co-founder Kevin Schaab are seasoned entrepreneurs with experience in pharmaceutical development, each with more than 20 years of diverse responsibilities in commercializing healthcare innovations. Schaab was a senior member of the team that guided the $475-million
Schaab and Bond began discussing business opportunities in the wake of the 2008 financial downturn, seeing promise in technologies that would improve drug development. After licensing the Illinois Tech patent portfolio, they began looking at the possibility of applying aspects of this work in the manufacturing of a more effective treatment for UC.
"The cost of bringing a single pharmaceutical through the approval process and all the way to market is often more than $2 billion," Bond says. "Innovations that reduce costs and shorten the development timeframe must be explored."
Early trials show safety, effectiveness
DeNovX's new oral therapy for UC has been studied in pilot trials, which have shown both the safety of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and its efficacy in humans. The new drug is expected to deliver significant relief at lower costs and with few side effects for the 35% of UC patients that do not respond to the first-line therapy.
The new drug could be a game-changer for UC patients, who often suffer from abdominal discomfort, frequent diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss. Most sufferers live in the world's most industrialized nations, mainly in urban areas. With the incidence of this lifelong disease growing, the DeNovX team is upbeat about the potential impact of the new therapy.
Bond holds more than 50 patents in a dozen countries, several of which have moved forward for commercial development in diverse fields, including nuclear medicine and assays of human biological fluids. Bond and Schaab emphasize that the new UC treatment is only one aspect of DeNovX's efforts to advance new drug therapies for better healthcare.
"A key objective for our platform tools is to assist pharmaceutical companies in discovering and formulating new APIs with greater speed and efficiency, while helping them create new intellectual property to enhance their competitive position," Bond explains.
Reaching key benchmarks with the right team
The past 2 years have been a whirlwind of progress for DeNovX. "The issuance of our first company-owned patent was attained in just 18 months - and we won $10,000 in a national business plan pitch competition that helped cover some of those patent costs," Bond says. "We're also very proud to have received $760,000 in NIH funding to advance our platforms."
In 2015, the company engaged Jeff Mistarz as a strategic financial and business advisor, and he soon joined the team as CFO. Mistarz has advised public and private companies in fast-growth scenarios, helping them lay the strategic groundwork for success.
"In 2015 we also hired our first research scientist, and we have worked with several undergraduate interns from Miramar in San Diego, the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and of course, Illinois Tech," Bond says. Bond leads the tight-knit team at UTP while Schaab works from the company's spur location in San Diego.
Pharma innovators, CROs will benefit
Demand for DeNovX's drug development tools will come from large pharma companies and contract research organizations (CROs), notes Bond.
"CROs are tasked with preparing and manufacturing a drug's active ingredient and shaping the final product in such a way as to meet FDA safety regulations. We are approaching these potential customers through existing relationships whenever possible. Right now we're onboarding a new team member who served as a senior leader with a multinational CRO, who will be able to assist us in reaching these customers," he says.
DeNovX is proud of its bench strength. "We now have an advisory board that includes three internationally recognized experts in early-stage pharmaceutical formulation, a world expert in inflammatory bowel disease treatment and a former pharmaceutical company CEO who achieved 2 exits in just over 5 years for an aggregate value over $1 billion," Bond reports.
Being at UTP has benefited DeNovX in several ways, he adds.
"These facilities are exactly what an early-stage company needs. We have a modern, safe laboratory with adjacent office space, and it's appropriately sized for our current needs with efficient future expansion options. The platform of business and technical services offered by the Tech Park in conjunction with the university are excellent, as are the opportunities to engage and interact with talented university staff and students."