FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2004
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center
Office of Communications
Contact: Kay Kendall (713) 677-7736
http://tamhsc.edu
New Public Company Based on A&M Health Science Center Research
Recently, an emerging biopharmaceutical company named Inhibitex, Inc., completed its initial public offering of five million shares of common stock at a price of $7.00 per share. Scientists Magnus Höök and Joseph Patti know that behind that important corporate event lies a long history of scientific and business endeavors. They co-founded the company when they both worked at Texas A&M University System Health Science Center’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT).
Progress in science is often a function of many years and many collaborations. Dr. Höök first began working on an important new class of molecules that allows bacteria to latch on and spread in humans 30 years ago in Sweden, where he was born. Knowledge of these molecules which are called MSCRAMMs®, an acronym for Microbial Surface Components Recognizing Adhesive Matrix Molecules, provides the technology base for Inhibitex, and, over the years, together with scientists in Europe and the United States, Dr. Höök and his research team have studied these molecules.
To date, the research has culminated in two product candidates, Veronate® and Aurexis®, that are now in human clinical trials. Veronate® is a product for the prevention of hospital-acquired infections in premature infants, and Aurexis® is for the treatment of staph infections in the hospital. Even though two product candidates have made it to human clinical trials, the platform technology still harbors additional molecules that have yet to be discovered and research in this area continues.
“I tried for years to establish a company to explore the medical applications of MSCRAMMs,” Dr. Höök explains, “and in Houston it became reality, due in no small part to the AM Fund and the leadership of Lloyd Bentsen, III. The Texas A&M University System is a special limited partner in the AM Fund, which was established to invest in early stage, high technology companies.”
Drs. Höök and Patti moved from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to Houston in 1992. Dr. Hook took a position as professor and director of the Center for Extracellular Matrix Biology, at the IBT. Dr. Patti was initially a post-doctoral fellow and, in 1994, became a research assistant professor. In 1999, Dr. Patti moved from Dr. Hook’s lab to Atlanta, Georgia, to start-up the laboratories of Inhibitex. He now serves as its vice president of preclinical development and chief scientific officer. Both scientists are members of the clinical and scientific advisory board of Inhibitex.
Dr. Höök explains that Texas A&M University established the Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston under the principle of applying the powerful tools of biotechnology to medicine and then taking discoveries to the marketplace to improve people’s health. The Institute became a component of the A&M Health Science Center in 1999.
“So our research on MSCRAMM® proteins fits in with that mission perfectly,” he states. “Our understanding of those proteins helps us devise new ways to fight the war we’re waging against disease causing microorganisms. Bacteria and fungi cannot cause an infection if they cannot establish a beachhead on our bodies. Since the discovery of penicillin, we have relied on antibiotics to cure us, but their ability to attack the clever army of pathogens is weakening. As the enemy gets stronger and smarter, so must we.”
“Broadly speaking, all the products we’ve designed to fight infections are based on antibodies that bind to specific MSCRAMM® proteins, thereby reducing the incidence and severity of infections.” (To view the MSCRAMM® protein antibody mechanisms of action, link to: http://www.inhibitex.com/technology/main.asp#.)
Dr. Patti notes, “with a pipeline of novel, first-in-field antibody-based products that address significant unmet clinical needs, we are well-positioned to provide clinicians with the power to dramatically improve the existing treatment paradigm for life-threatening bacterial and fungal infections.”
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.
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