Our newest investment gives us the opportunity to back a promising therapy and a familiar, and proven, founder.
Invirsa is a pharmaceutical company that is developing a new line of attack against common infectious diseases; diseases that keep millions of Americans home from work and school every year. The company is co-founded by Robert Shalwitz MD and Isaiah Shalwitz. Robert Shalwitz is a pediatric endocrinologist who was most recently a co-founder of two other CincyTech portfolio companies: Akebia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:AKBA) and Aerpio Pharmaceuticals (OTCMKTS:ARPO).
Invirsa is initially developing its lead drug candidate, INV-102, as a primary treatment for acute keratoconjunctivitis, also known as “pinkeye,” as well as upper respiratory tract infections. Both affect millions of Americans annually and can be easily spread from person to person, forcing many people to stay home from school or work. Currently there is no FDA-approved treatment for the 80% of conjunctivitis cases which are viral.
“INV-102 has demonstrated efficacy in animal models of acute adenoviral keratoconjunctivitis via topical application (eyedrops). This has the potential to reduce from weeks to days the duration of symptoms from common upper respiratory infections,” said Invirsa CEO Robert Shalwitz MD, a pediatric endocrinologist who has led teams for NDA approvals for two drugs and for sNDA approvals for multiple approved compounds.
“This is a new approach to infectious diseases,” said John Rice PhD, Director of Life Sciences at CincyTech. “Working with serial entrepreneur Bob Shalwitz again was a key attractor for our investment in Invirsa. Bob has a stellar track record as a drug developer with a billion dollar marketed product and several more drugs in late stage clinical development to his credit.”
Invirsa’s approach represents an opportunity to help the global health community better prepare for and fight infectious diseases. INV-102, derived from a naturally occurring small molecule, works by strengthening the innate immune response and stimulating the repair of damaged DNA. This unique mechanism of action represents a path to treatment that differs from traditional antibiotic and antiviral therapy.
“While there are products to improve the immune response, none are approved as a first line therapy for common infectious diseases,” said Invirsa VP Isaiah Shalwitz, MS, a biostatistician and pharmaceutical development veteran. “INV-102 promises to be an exciting new development in enhancing the body’s immune response while simultaneously promoting cellular repair.”
CincyTech led a $520,000 seed financing round, with participation with Rev1 Ventures in Columbus. This funding is the first step in bringing INV-102 into clinical development and ultimately to patients.