JangoBio is moving closer to commercialization as animal testing shows promise for the company’s stem cell therapy.
“We have, recently, tangible evidence that all of this now works,” said Bill Kohl, chief operating officer for JangoBio. “Before, we had a lot of ideas… We had some evidence, but now we have data that is actually working. We have to see where it goes, but this is huge.”
This Madison-based startup was started about three years ago. Its therapy is based on decades of research and the ideas of Craig Atwood, company CEO. Using stem cells, the therapy would regrow hormone-producing cells in the body that naturally decline as we age.
This would stabilize dozens of unbalanced hormones and lead to major health benefits, Atwood says, including a lower risk of developing cancer.
“This technology applies to everybody on Earth,” he said at a recent progress update meeting in Madison.
The team of scientists working on this therapy behind the scenes made a “great discovery” recently, Atwood explained at the meeting.
They had been screening a number of compounds to find the best prospect, and found one that led to a 120 percent increase in testosterone production in the treated stem cells. He says they were very happy with that, and were thinking of moving forward on the strength of that one compound.
“But then, we started playing around with combinations of compounds, and these combinations actually increased testosterone production over tenfold,” he said.
One month after these treated cells were injected into the testes of middle-aged rats, their testosterone levels had doubled.
“That makes them very potent at producing sex hormones — so this has been a great discovery,” Atwood said.
Initial human trials could be completed by the end of 2019, according to the company’s projected timeline.
“I’d like to see revenues next year. I think that’s possible,” Atwood said. “We’re not too far in the future here.”
He noted that this therapy would work just as well for highly valued animals — companion animals, racehorses and even dairy cows. The company’s strategy is to aim for animal markets first to generate revenues and crucial data, while working toward approval for a human product in the background.
JangoBio has received a Phase 1 NIH grant for $364,000, and used these funds to set up a laboratory at University Research Park in Madison where over 40 animals are used for testing.
Dirk Racine, chief financial officer for the company, says a Phase 2 NIH grant application is in the works for later this year. And Kohl says the chances of getting a second grant are usually much higher.
A patent for this therapy was first submitted in 2014, and though Atwood says it’s still going through “rounds of changes,” he expects approval in six to 12 months.
“We’re going to be playing around with, not curing, but certainly delaying the development of diseases. And of course people die from these diseases,” Atwood said. “It’s not a matter of if this is going to happen; it’s a matter of when. There’s no leading gerontologist out there than disagrees we can not now increase human lifespan dramatically.”
So far, he says, the challenge has been to come up with methods and products to reach all the markets this therapy could address. Atwood says it could counteract the normal slowing down process of aging, but could also stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Moving forward, researchers will continue to monitor the treated rats that have shown increased hormone production.
“We’re going to follow these animals now over the next months, years to see how they respond, how long this effect lasts, and whatever it mitigates in development of diseases of aging,” he said.
The executive team is continuing to seek investment to support that ongoing work. The company has been certified by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation as a Qualified New Business Venture, so investors can get up to 25 percent of their investment back as an income tax credit.
Listen to a recent podcast with Atwood: http://wisbusiness.com/index.Iml?Article=388890
–By Alex Moe