Fannin Innovation Studio (www.fannininnovation.com), a commercialization firm that provides integrated funding and direct management of early-stage life science startups, today announced the formation of Exotect, LLC. The portfolio company is investigating a novel molecular pathway that controls mucus hypersecretion in asthma and other respiratory ailments. The company’s development team, and researchers led by Burton Dickey, M.D., Chair of the Pulmonary Department at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, are targeting a key molecule of this pathway as a druggable target that can be modulated to reduce hypersecretion of mucus. Identification of the lead molecule is currently in progress.
Asthma is characterized by mucus dysfunction, airway hyper-responsiveness and chronic inflammation. Current treatments of asthma focus only on the airway hyper-responsiveness and inflammation. No effective therapy exists to modulate mucus secretion, even though it plays an important role in severe asthma attacks. Hypersecretion in asthma can even lead to the rare cases of deaths from uncontrolled asthma attacks. Mucus dysfunction is also common in the pathophysiology of several other airway diseases including cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Dickey has identified components of the molecular mechanism within the mucus secretory cells of the airway lining epithelium as possible targets that could decrease the hypersecretion of mucus. His extensive research in the field of dysfunctional mucus secretion has suggested a particular essential molecule in this mechanism that holds the key to controlling the secretory pathway for mucus in airway secretory cells.
“The inhibition of this key, controlling molecule has the potential to reduce the dysfunctional rapid release of overproduced mucus, resulting in a lessening of airway obstruction by mucus during asthma attacks. Our goal is to offer an additional effective treatment in asthma and other airway diseases by treating mucus hypersecretion,” said Dickey.
Exotect will continue further scientific discoveries, primarily under the stewardship of Dickey and his team, in conjunction with drug discovery focused on the molecular target, by multiple approaches including high throughput screening and rational drug design. Fannin Innovation Studio principal Dev Chatterjee, M.D., Ph.D., and entrepreneurship fellow Melissa Singh, Ph.D., will lead Exotect’s research and development activities.
“Fannin’s core strategy is to develop paradigm-changing research that has optionality for more than one indication,” said Fannin managing partner Atul Varadhachary, M.D., Ph.D. “Currently, there are no therapeutic interventions which treat this important component of asthma, which is the hypersecretion of mucus.”
The formation of Exotect is part of Fannin’s growth strategy to co-found ten to fifteen more early-stage life science companies within the next three years. Exotect joins a diverse roster of startups commercializing promising technologies including devices, therapeutics and diagnostics.