3:45 PM
 | 
Feb 07, 2019
 |  BC Extra  |  Company News

BioMotiv, Rutgers launch TamRx

Cancer immunotherapy company TamRx LLC (Cleveland, Ohio) launched Thursday from pharmaceutical accelerator BioMotiv LLC (Cleveland, Ohio), shooting to reach the clinic with its pan-TAM inhibitors in 2021.

The company is based on research from Rutgers University, which also has an undisclosed stake in TamRx.

The TAM family includes three receptor tyrosine kinases -- TYRO3, AXL and MERTK -- on the surface of cells that bind with the ligand GAS6 to trigger a survival response, but the pathway is co-opted during cancer metastasis and can aid in drug resistance (see "Keeping the Gas Off AXL").

TamRx's inhibitors block GAS6 binding to all three TAMs, which could inhibit metastasis while also indirectly promoting an antitumor immune response.

TamRx plans to test its inhibitors in combination with checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapies for a variety of cancers.

According to BioCentury's BCIQ database, at least 11 companies have clinical programs targeting one or two receptors in the TAM-GAS6 pathway, primarily AXL, but there are no compounds in development that target all three receptors.

Baiju Shah, BioMotiv's CEO, told BioCentury, "There are very few companies or technologies that we’ve seen that target the Gas6 binding site, which enables you to work against all three. And that’s what got us very excited."

While financial details were not disclosed, Shah said BioMotiv commits an estimated $5-$10 million for companies like TamRx.

BioMotiv's model is to in-license promising technology, as it did from Rutgers, then provide management, personnel and capital to build the company to an inflection point where it can attract interest from an investor syndicate or pharmaceutical company.

TamRx's scientific founders include Raymond Birge, William Welsh and Youyi Peng.

Birge is a professor of biochemistry at Rutgers' New Jersey Medical School, Welsh is a bioinformatics professor in the department of pharmacology at Rutgers' Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Peng is a cheminformatics specialist at Rutgers' Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

AXL (UFO) - AXL receptor tyrosine kinase; GAS6 - Growth arrest-specific 6; MERTK - c-Mer proto-oncogene tyrosine kinase; TYRO3 (Sky) - TYRO3 protein tyrosine kinase

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