Impacting liver disease: a growing, significant market with limited treatment options
Cyta Therapeutics, Inc. (Cyta) is a pre-clinical stage therapeutics company based on a novel chemistry platform developed in the laboratory of Professor S. Thayumanavan at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Cyta is building a pipeline of products based on a novel class of polymer-based nanogels, called IntelliGels. The company’s first development program is a therapeutic (CYTX-100) to treat liver disease based on a liver regeneration/cytoprotection mechanism. Cyta is also pursuing partnerships with select pharmaceutical companies to leverage Cyta’s platform as a solution to improve therapeutic index for particular drug assets. The company has raised initial seed capital, has an early feasibility study with a large pharma and is assembling an initial team of advisors and employees.
Liver disease affects over 30 million people, accounting for 40,000 deaths and 6,500 liver transplants in the U.S. per year. There are numerous causes of liver disease, including alcohol, infections and increasing lipid levels. The damage to the cellular components of the liver leads to increased inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis and eventually liver failure. Over the next twenty to thirty years, the number of patients with liver disease is projected to increase; however, there are few treatment options outside of the recently approved hepatitis C drugs. This is particularly true for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) which is expected to become the leading indication for liver transplantation by 2020 and has no approved drugs on the market. Cyta is developing a therapeutic agent that reduces liver inflammation and stimulates liver regeneration in order to protect or ameliorate damage of the liver and restore normal function.
Team & Advisors
Bernadette (Bonnie) C. Fendrock, MS, MBA
Chief Executive Officer, founder
Ms. Fendrock was CEO and Co-founder of Hepregen Corporation, a venture backed, commercial stage, MIT spin-out based on the bioengineered in vitro micro-liver platform developed by Professor Sangeeta Bhatia. In her more than 25 years of life science industry experience, Ms. Fendrock has held leadership roles in general management, corporate and business development, marketing and program management working at foundational biotechnology companies including Genzyme, Somatix (one of the first gene therapy companies), Genetics Institute and Acusphere. Prior to receiving her MBA, she worked in research and product development at Integrated Genetics and Centocor. Her technology experience includes biotherapeutics, gene therapy, biological medical devices, bioengineered tools and chemistry-based delivery platforms. In 2012, Ms. Fendrock was honored along with other innovation leaders as one of the Mass High Tech ‘Women to Watch’. Ms. Fendrock has been a Director, Executive Women Series, for the Boston Chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) and has been a volunteer mentor to entrepreneurs through MassConnect, MassChallenge, The MIT Enterprise Forum and The Deshpande Center. She received a B.A. in Molecular Biology from Wellesley College, a MS in Interdisciplinary Science from MIT and a MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania with a Fellowship in Management of Technology.
W. Stephen (Steve) Faraci, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, founder
Prior to Cyta Therapeutics, Dr. Faraci was Executive Director and Site Head at Capsugel’s Product Development Center with a focus on formulation development and clinical manufacturing. Previously, Dr. Faraci worked for over 22 years at Pfizer Global Research & Development in a variety of leadership roles throughout the organization. He was a founding member of the leadership team that helped build a new R&D site in Cambridge, MA in 1999, growing from 10 employees to over 150. He had various leadership roles at the site, including Head of Biology, Interim Site Head and Chief Operating Officer. His responsibilities included internal research and development as well as external academic/industry collaborations. Steve was a member of the Mass Biotech Council Board of Directors. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Wesleyan University and continued his training as a National Institute of Health Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of Professor Christopher Walsh.
Roman Herrera, Ph.D.
Head of Preclinical Development
Dr. Herrera obtained his Ph.D. in Molecular Pharmacology at Albert Einstein Medical College studying the structure-function relationship of the insulin receptor. After Post-doctoral training at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, studying genes linked to cell differentiation, he joined (1992-2011) Parke-Davis/Warner Lambert-Pfizer (Ann Arbor, MI/Cambridge/MA) where he worked in drug discovery programs across several disease areas such as inflammation, diabetes and cancer. He assumed increased leadership roles in target identification/validation, in vivo disease models and biomarkers strategies to support both pre-clinical and clinical (Phase I/II) programs. Prior to joining Cyta, he was a consultant to biopharmaceutical and biotech startup companies.
Scientific & Clinical Advisors
S. (Thai) Thayumanavan
Professor, Department of Chemistry University of Massachusetts Amherst
Chair of SAB, Inventor of Cyta Technology, founder
Dr. S. “Thai” Thayumanavan is a leader in the design and syntheses of new macromolecules, especially polymers, to obtain responsive supramolecular nanoassemblies. These responsive nanoassemblies are being pursued for applications in the delivery of small molecules and biologics, in addition to imaging and diagnostics applications. His work has resulted in more than 180 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals. The innovation in his work has also produced numerous patents. Dr. Thayumanavan has received a multitude of national and international recognitions for his creative contributions, including election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the CRSI Medal by the Chemical Research of India, and the Chancellor’s Medal by UMass. Dr. Thayumanavan received his early education from The American College in Madurai, India. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following a postdoctoral stint at Caltech, he started his independent career at Tulane University in 1999 and joined the faculty at UMass Amherst in 2003.
Benjamin Cravatt, Ph.D.
Professor, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and Chair, Department of Chemical Physiology at The Scripps Research Institute
Dr. Cravatt’s research group is interested in understanding the roles that enzymes play in physiological and pathological processes. To address this challenge, they develop and apply an array of genetic, pharmacological, and proteomic/metabolomic technologies. The Cravatt group has obtained fundamental insights into the chemical, biochemical, and physiological workings of several important mammalian serine hydrolases. Dr. Cravatt obtained his undergraduate education at Stanford University, receiving a B.S. in the Biological Sciences and a B.A. in History. He then trained with Drs. Dale Boger and Richard Lerner and received a Ph.D. in Macromolecular and Cellular Structure and Chemistry from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in 1996. Professor Cravatt joined the faculty at TSRI in 1997 as a member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and the departments of Cell Biology and Chemistry. Dr. Cravatt is a co-founder and scientific advisor of Activx Biosciences and Abide Therapeutics. His honors include a Searle Scholar Award (1998-2001), the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry (2004), a Cope Scholar Award (2005), the Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award (2007), the Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry (2008), a MERIT award from the National Cancer Institute (2009) and inducted member of the National Academy of Sciences (2014) as well as being elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2016).
Robert J. Miller, Ph.D.
Biomaterials and Therapeutic Polymers Expert
For the past 30 years, Dr. Miller worked at Genzyme Corporation on a variety of programs that developed products from the chemical modification of hyaluronan. Dr. Miller is an inventor on 60 patents and author of 28 publications including four book chapters. He contributed to the development of Seprafilm®, Sepragel®, and improved versions of Synvisc® and Hylaform®. Most recently, the group had focused on leveraging this medical device expertise to develop unique combination products that offer novel therapies for large medical needs. Dr. Miller is the Industry Council Chair and Member of the Board of Directors for the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. He is also a Member and past chairman of the University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials Industrial Advisory Board and a Member of the City University of New York Biomedical Engineering Advisory Board. Dr. Miller received a B.S. in Chemistry and Marine Chemistry in from Southampton College of Long Island University and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.
Gyongi Szabo, MD, Ph.D., FAASLD, AGAF, FACP
Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Sciences Endowed Chair, Associate Vice Provost for Interprofessional Education, Professor and Vice Chair of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
Dr. Szabo is an internationally recognized leader in the field of liver immunology and inflammation. Her translational research and clinical investigations focus on alcoholic hepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and viral hepatitis. She is the lead investigator on an NIH-supported multicenter clinical trial on alcoholic hepatitis. Her laboratory studies cellular and molecular mechanisms of inflammation and innate immunity and aims to identify new therapeutic targets for controlling inflammation in the liver by using bench to bedside tools. Her recent research focuses on the role of Toll-like receptor and Nod-like receptor signaling pathways in alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases and the importance of exosomes and micro-RNAs as biomarkers. She is member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, serves on advisory boards of several agencies and institutions. She has also served as President of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in 2015.