Traverse, SUNY, DoD set big test for TRB-N0224

Traverse Biosciences founder Joseph Scaduto: Exciting developments in Syracuse.

Stony Brook-based biotech Traverse Biosciences will share a Department of Defense award with SUNY Upstate Medical University to fund a critical field test of Traverse’s leading drug candidate.

The effectiveness of TRB-N0224 as a treatment for lung injuries – including acute respiratory distress syndrome, a common condition in critically ill patients with a mortality rate as high as 50 percent – will be put to the test via a DoD Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program Discovery Award.

The $164,689 award will fund research by Gary Nieman, associate professor and senior research scientist in Syracuse-based SUNY Upstate’s Department of Surgery.

The FDA has never approved a pharmaceutical treatment for ARDS, a rapidly progressing lung disorder that’s also gone by such ominous monikers as “shock lung.” The disorder – which affects 190,000 U.S. patients annually and kills 74,000 of them, according to Traverse – can be directly or indirectly triggered by pneumonia, sepsis, major trauma and other factors.

Traverse Biosciences founder and CEO Joseph Scaduto said his 2013 startup is “very excited to work with internationally recognized experts in respiratory diseases from SUNY Upstate,” while Nieman noted his team is “excited to evaluate the effectiveness of TRB-N0224 to treat acute lung injury.”

The DoD pilot funding “will allow us to further demonstrate the pleiotropic effects of this novel drug candidate, and its ability to alleviate the devastating inflammation and life-threatening lung damage associated with ARDS,” Nieman said in a statement.

The award continues a hot summer for Traverse Biosciences, which in June announced a critical seed investment led by Rochester-based VC fund Excell Partners. That $500,000 stake, including $100,000 from Excell and undisclosed individual investments from a cadre of regional investors, was designed specifically to help Traverse commercialize pharmaceutical candidates licensed from the SUNY Research Foundation.

Referencing Nieman’s worldwide reputation as a leading lung-injury researcher, SUNY Upstate Technology Transfer Director Scott Macfarlane noted the significance of the researcher collaborating with “world-class scientists at Stony Brook and with Traverse Biosciences” on a potential ARDS treatment.

“Gary is joining the growing ranks of Upstate researchers and clinicians who are collaborating closely with startup companies to develop next-generation medical treatments and devices,” MacFarlane said. “We believe strongly that such academic-industry collaborations are critical to translating our basic research discoveries into products that will benefit society.”

The DoD funding also brings Traverse Biosciences a step closer to fulfilling the requirements of a lucrative R&D agreement Traverse announced in May 2015 with Kansas-based veterinary-medicine specialist Aratana Therapeutics. An exclusive sublicensing option included in that deal makes Traverse eligible for up to $8.25 million in up-front and milestone payments and additional royalties on TRB-N0224 sales – once the drug has been successfully commercialized.

But ultimately, Scaduto noted, it will be patients who benefit most from the research conducted by Nieman and his team.

“Their unparalleled expertise in the field of acute lung injury, in combination with this funding from the Department of Defense, will allow Traverse Biosciences to explore a new area of research,” the Traverse Biosciences CEO said, “and to potentially develop our novel class of drug candidates for human therapeutic indications that address critical unmet medical needs on and off the battlefield.”