Houston’s Fannin Innovation Studio is forming a new biotech startup to add to its portfolio called ACF Pharmaceuticals, along with the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and a Michigan-based drug company.
ACF Pharmaceuticals, which will be based in Houston, will work closely with MD Anderson and Ann Arbor, MI-based Cayman Chemical on discovering and developing small molecule inhibitor to treat inflammation-induced cancers such as melanoma, as well as colon and pancreatic cancers.
“We’re looking at blocking that inflammatory pathway,” says Melissa Singh, a Fannin fellow and former MD Anderson postdoc, who is leading the ACF team. “The problem with some of the (therapies) that have been developed is that side effects have limited their use.”
Cayman Chemical will take the lead in drug discovery by working on the design, synthesis, and initial screening for therapeutic applications in cancer, fibrosis, inflammation, and pain. MD Anderson will evaluate molecule candidates and conduct animal studies in as soon as six months.
M.D. Anderson developed the initial technology and will continue to help validate progress, while Cayman has the expertise in developing molecules that would become drugs, says Atul Varadhachary, Fannin’s managing partner.
“We really need these three sets of capabilities,” he says. “IP does not even exist at this point. We are working together to generate IP so hopefully within a year we will have a lead molecule in place.”
ACF Pharmaceuticals is the latest company to be founded by Fannin, which functions as both an accelerator and a venture capital firm. Fannin currently has nearly a dozen portfolio companies, which include Acelerox, which was founded in February and aims to use nanoparticle technology to treat a variety of autoimmune and other disorders.
Another Fannin company is Procyrion, a medtech startup that is developing a circulatory support pump that is thinner than a pencil and can be implanted through a catheter in the aorta, the major artery coming from the heart. The device is designed to support heart failure patients by helping the damaged heart push more blood through the circulatory system and on to vital organs.