Ohio’s finest: Eight biotech companies leading the way

Ohio biotech companies

Ohio has become an important hub for the biotech industry, thanks to a mix of strong educational institutions, a strategic location, and a supportive business environment. In June 2023, CBRE released the U.S. Life Sciences Research Talent Report 2023 and two cities in Ohio came out as top emerging hubs for research: Columbus with $306 million in NIH (National Institute of Health) funding and Cincinnati with $262 million. The state is home to a wide variety of biotech companies and research organizations, and this article focuses on the biotechs to know in Ohio.

Table of contents

    Basking Biosciences

    Basking Biosciences, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a biotech company focused on developing therapies for acute ischemic stroke. The company aims to provide rapid and effective treatment options that can reduce the damage caused by strokes and improve patient outcomes. 

    Basking Biosciences works on a reversible thrombolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke. Traditional thrombolytic therapies are designed to dissolve blood clots that obstruct blood flow to the brain. However, these treatments carry significant risks, including bleeding complications. 

    The company’s lead product, BB-031, is a reversible thrombolytic agent, for which phase 2 clinical trials will start soon. This agent works by targeting Von Willenbrand factor (vWF) rather than fibrin. VWF plays a critical role in hemostasis, which is the process that stops bleeding at the site of a vascular injury. The unique aspect of this therapy is its reversibility, which allows clinicians to stop the drug’s activity if adverse effects, such as bleeding, occur. This approach aims to enhance the safety and effectiveness of stroke treatment.

    Basking Biosciences recently raised $55 million to support the clinical development of their thrombolytic agent. 

    Clarametyx Biosciences

    Clarametyx Biosciences is a biotech company based in Columbus, Ohio, focused on developing therapies for infectious diseases. Founded to address the challenges posed by bacterial biofilms, Clarametyx aims to enhance the efficacy of existing antibiotics and develop new treatments that can effectively target and eliminate persistent bacterial infections.

    Biofilms are protective layers that bacteria form to shield themselves from antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat. Clarametyx’s proprietary technology targets these biofilms, breaking them down to expose the bacteria to antibiotics, thereby improving the treatment outcomes.

    Clarametyx’s pipeline includes several therapies designed to work in conjunction with traditional antibiotics, providing a multi-faceted approach to bacterial infections:

    • CMTX-101 is a monoclonal antibody that can degrade biofilms and increase antibiotic activity by capturing and removing DNABII proteins. These proteins act as linchpins to the structural stability of biofilm, removing them causes it to collapse.
    • CMTX-301 is a vaccine that can prevent biofilm-related infections by inducing an immune response against biofilm-forming proteins.

    In January 2024, the Ohio-based biotech company secured $33 million in a series A round. Clarametyx Biosciences also announced positive early phase 1 safety results for CMTX-101. The result showed no safety concerns and pharmacokinetic results aligned with animal models. The company is advancing to phase 1b to further evaluate the therapy’s safety and effectiveness.

    Convelo Therapeutics

    Based in Cleveland, Ohio, this biotech company focuses on neurobiology and regenerative medicine. Convelo Therapeutics aims to develop therapies that stimulate myelin regeneration in the central nervous system, offering new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).

    Convelo Therapeutics targets the regenerative capacity of stem cells in the central nervous system. The company’s approach consists of discovering small molecules that can stimulate these stem cells to form new myelin, the protective sheath around nerves, which is crucial for normal nervous system function.

    Convelo’s pipeline includes several small molecule candidates in preclinical development. In March 2024, the biotech discussed two new oral treatment candidates, CVL-1001 and CVL-2001, at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) forum 2024. 

    CVL-1001 inhibits the EBP protein, while CVL-2001 targets CYP51. These proteins are involved in cholesterol synthesis, which is crucial for myelin production. By inhibiting these proteins, the treatments promote the differentiation of oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for myelination. This leads to enhanced remyelination, potentially restoring nerve function in MS patients.

    According to Multiple Sclerosis News Today, among the 20 treatments approved for MS, none are proven to promote myelin repair making this treatment potentially significant in the field if it progresses toward clinical trials. 

    Diasome Pharmaceuticals

    Diasome Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, develops diabetes therapies using its proprietary hepatocyte-directed vesicle (HDV) technology. The company aims to enhance the efficacy and safety of insulin treatments by targeting insulin directly to the liver.

    Diasome’s HDV technology mimics the liver’s natural role in glucose metabolism by directing insulin to hepatocytes (liver cells). This approach addresses a key issue in diabetes management where traditional insulin therapies fail to adequately target the liver, leading to suboptimal glucose control. By ensuring that insulin reaches the liver more effectively, HDV technology can potentially offer better glycemic control and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.

    Diasome’s lead candidate is an injectable HDV insulin drug for type 1 diabetes. The company announced early this year, the launch of the OPTI-2 phase 2b trial for this candidate. 

    In December 2023, the Ohio biotech company closed its series C round bringing its total funding to $92 million according to Crunchbase.

    Invirsa

    Invirsa is dedicated to developing therapies that enhance the body’s natural response to DNA damage. Invirsa leverages its proprietary small molecule, INV-102, to address a variety of health challenges.

    DNA damage occurs naturally and can be exacerbated by viral infections and other environmental factors. INV-102 is designed to augment the body’s response to DNA damage,  improving cell stability and reducing the severity of infections and other related conditions.

    INV-102 is a naturally-occurring small molecule that has demonstrated the ability to enhance the immune response to DNA damage. This molecule works by boosting the body’s natural repair mechanisms, which can be particularly beneficial in the context of viral infections that cause significant cellular stress. When DNA is damaged, the body’s natural repair processes are activated to fix the damage and maintain cellular function. INV-102 enhances these processes, helping to quickly and predictably stabilize cells at critical moments, reducing the overall impact of the damage.

    By improving DNA repair and cell stability, INV-102 has the potential to reduce the severity and duration of viral infections, improve recovery times, and enhance overall immune function. This broad application makes it a promising candidate for a range of health conditions where DNA damage plays a key role. The small molecule is still in the preclinical stage.

    Kurome Therapeutics

    Kurome Therapeutics, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a clinical-stage biotechnology company specializing in cancer treatment, targeting dysregulated immune signaling pathways. The company aims to address the challenge of adaptive resistance in cancer cells, particularly in hematologic malignancies.

    Kurome Therapeutics’ strategy is targeting the interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinases (IRAK1 and IRAK4) and FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) pathways, which play crucial roles in cancer cell survival and resistance to therapies. The IRAK1 and IRAK4 proteins are part of the immune signaling pathways that, when dysregulated, contribute to the survival and proliferation of cancer cells.

    FLT3 mutations are commonly associated with poor prognosis in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The company develops inhibitors that simultaneously target these kinases to effectively disrupt cancer cell signaling and overcome resistance mechanisms. Kurome’s lead compound is progressing toward clinical trials and should enter phase 1 in the second half of 2024.

    The dual inhibition strategy targets multiple survival pathways within cancer cells, reducing the likelihood of resistance development and improving treatment outcomes. This approach is particularly significant for patients with relapsed or refractory AML and high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

    Sermonix Pharmaceuticals

    Sermonix Pharmaceuticals, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a biotech company dedicated to developing targeted therapies for the treatment of women’s cancers, with a particular focus on advanced breast cancer

    The biotech develops selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) and selective estrogen receptor degraders (SERDs). These compounds are designed to target estrogen receptors, which play a critical role in the growth and proliferation of certain types of breast cancer cells. By modulating or degrading these receptors, Sermonix aims to inhibit cancer cell growth and improve patient outcomes.

    The company’s lead product candidate is lasofoxifene, a SERM with anti-estrogenic effects in breast tissue. Lasofoxifene is being developed for the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) metastatic breast cancer in patients who have developed resistance to other endocrine therapies. This candidate is currently in phase 2 clinical trials and initial results “ideally position Sermonix for the initiated global registrational ELAINE-3, Phase 3 study comparing lasofoxifene in combination with abemaciclib versus fulvestrant plus abemaciclib,” said David Portman, Sermonix founder and chief executive officer (CEO).

    In late 2021, the Ohio biotech closed a $40 million series A3 round, bringing its total funding to $67 million.

    Sollis Therapeutics

    Sollis Therapeutics, another biotech based in Columbus, is developing non-steroid, non-opioid analgesics. The biotech works on an extended-release clonidine micropellet designed for targeted, local delivery. Clonidine is an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.  This therapy is aimed at treating neuropathic pain syndromes, including sciatica, by providing long-lasting pain relief through a single injection.

    The clonidine micropellet is designed to be administered via an epidural injection. Once in place, it releases clonidine gradually, targeting specific pain pathways and reducing inflammation. 

    The micropellet aims to provide pain relief for up to one year with a single injection, significantly improving the patient’s quality of life. It is particularly beneficial for patients with sciatica, a condition that currently lacks U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatments and often relies on opioids or steroid injections, which come with significant risks and side effects. The Ohio-based biotech company’s lead project is currently in phase 3 clinical trials.

    Ohio’s biotech landscape, a strong emphasis on manufacturing

    Ohio is home to interesting, up-and-coming biotech companies. However, saying these innovative companies are representative of the state’s global landscape would be a lie. Indeed, Ohio’s biotech industry has a substantial focus on manufacturing, driven by large investments from companies like Amgen’s new manufacturing facility. While this is a strength, it also means that a significant portion of the industry is centered around production rather than innovation. Balancing manufacturing capabilities with the need for research and development is crucial for long-term growth​​.

    The state’s central location in the U.S. makes it an attractive place for biotech companies, offering easy access to major markets, a significant advantage for both distribution and collaboration. Overall, while Ohio’s biotech industry has a robust foundation and significant potential, continued investment in research, strategic partnerships, and workforce development will be key factors in driving the local industry forward.

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