Moving Science, People

Southern Research launches Venture Studio

November 22, 2022

Southern Research has launched a Venture Studio to develop startups that will bring new therapeutic products to market. In conjunction with its partners, Southern Research has more than 20 drug programs currently in preclinical development. These programs hold enormous potential for patients in therapeutic areas such as cancer, infectious disease, neurological disease and others. The Venture Studio will compete for competitive sources of non-dilutive and equity funding from public and private sources to bridge from early-stage research to clinical development.

The Venture Studio Director Tayo Sanders II, Ph.D., will work closely with investigators at Southern Research to advance current drug programs. To enter the Venture Studio, programs will undergo a rigorous selection process that assesses scientific strength, commercial potential and regulatory considerations. The first cohort of Venture Studio spinouts was launched in November 2022, with fundraising to begin in November 2023.

Venture Studio Cohort I companies:

  • Litus therapeutics is advancing therapies that target a critical feature of many cancers: silenced tumor suppressor genes. Using a newly developed analog of clofarabine, a cancer drug product previously developed at Southern Research, the team behind Litus has shown it can correct epigenetic dysregulation in cancer cells and promote cancer cell death. Litus expects that these new therapies will be powerful tools in the fight against triple-negative breast cancer as well as other solid and liquid cancers.
  • Silanus Therapeutics is developing new therapies to disrupt protein-protein interactions responsible for cancer immune evasion. While antibody drugs have been developed to address this problem, these therapies are costly and complex to manufacture and suffer from poor tumor penetrance resulting in limited efficacy against solid tumors. Initial studies by the Silanus team using peptide and small molecule compounds have demonstrated promising antitumor activity against triple-negative breast cancer models.
  • Pratum Therapeutics is utilizing drugs that target the tumor microenvironment to improve treatment for a variety of cancers. Earlier work by the Pratum team in a colorectal cancer model suggests that priming the tumor microenvironment with targeted DNA damage alongside immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) treatment results in significantly reduced tumor volume and regrowth compared to ICI treatment alone. Pratum anticipates its new therapies will not only lead to better outcomes for patients receiving ICI treatment but also expand the types of cancers that can be addressed.
  • Divum Therapeutics is developing a new class of drugs to treat moderate to severe chronic pain without the debilitating side effects associated with traditional opioid analgesics. Studies by the Divum team indicate that potent pain relief can be achieved while reducing tolerance, withdrawal and addiction liability. Divum hopes this promising work could play a significant role in combating the opioid crisis.


About Tayo Sanders, II, Ph.D.

Tayo Sanders II, Ph.D., has spent the last seven years working with investors and startups in the biotech and industrial technology space. Most recently, he led due diligence on more than 15 companies, totaling more than $130M in deployed capital as a senior member of the investment team at the Boston-based VC firm, Anzu Partners. Prior to this, Sanders led technical diligence on Anzu’s first investment, Axsun Technologies, which was acquired for an 8x return in Q1 2019. Sanders received a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and pursued a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

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