EvoRx Technologies completes first collaboration with AstraZeneca

EvoRx Technologies, a Pasadena biotech with roots at USC, recently achieved an exciting milestone: successful completion of its first collaboration with a major pharmaceutical company.

In partnering with AstraZeneca, EvoRx was able to help advance drug candidates in respiratory disease targeting an intracellular protein-protein interaction. The progress was enabled by EvoRx’s proprietary peptide drug delivery platform, a system developed in part using patents licensed through the USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

Peptides, or polymers of amino acids, have been gaining traction in recent years as the next generation of therapeutics. But while they have enormous potential, peptides also present several challenges, as drug developers such as AstraZeneca try to access difficult sites within the body, such as inside cells where misbehaving proteins lead to disease. Peptides are hard to make into effective drugs as they typically degrade too quickly in the body, don’t cross biological membranes and aren’t potent enough to be effective treatment, said EvoRx’s Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Fiacco, who started his company four years ago based on his Ph.D. research at USC.

“We created a peptide that was stable in the blood, able to get inside cells, and had very good drug potency, so we were essentially able to address the three issues of peptides in our collaboration with AstraZeneca,” said Fiacco, speaking of the 1-year collaboration with AstraZeneca.

The company is also wrapping up a similar collaboration with another pharmaceutical drug maker and talking to additional companies where EvoRx’s platform could help advance drugs in development. While EvoRx is primarily focused on oncology and inflammatory disease, the platform can be used for a wider number of therapeutic areas such as cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

EvoRx’s peptide drug delivery platform is based, in part, on patents originally licensed through USC Stevens Center for Innovation and later refined with technologies developed by EvoRx.

The company, founded in 2011, also recently expanded its space in Pasadena from 1,200 to 3,100 square feet and is in the process of applying for a $2 million Phase II SBIR grant for more funding, after already having secured a Phase I grant in 2013 for close to $250,000. In 2012, EvoRx Technologies was the winner of the USC Ideas Empowered program, a two-year pilot program managed by the USC Stevens Center to bridge the gap between ideas and the marketplace. The Ideas Empowered and SBIR Phase I funding were critical to help EvoRx launch, according to Fiacco.

“It also provided external validation that we had something that investors and Pharma companies wanted to see,” Fiacco said.

–by Peijean Tsai, USC Stevens, published August 31, 2015