COVID-19 watch

Texas company receives emergency authorization for its COVID-19 antibody test

The FDA has fast-tracked this Austin company's COVID-19 antibody test. Photo courtesy of Babson

A Texas medical company is leading the fight against COVID-19. On June 25, Austin-based Babson Diagnostics announced it has received an emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration for its SARS-CoV-2 IgG Antibody Test.

The blood test helps identify if a person has an "adaptive immune response to SARS-CoV-2 [aka COVID-19]" by testing for antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and usually provide immunity, though the Centers for Disease Control cautions that this is not yet known for COVID-19 antibodies.

"Not only is serology a crucial tool for the research and understanding of COVID-19, we believe it will become an essential component of ongoing preventive medicine," said Eric Olson, Babson's founder and CEO, in a release. "The early success of our assays, combined with our ongoing clinical studies and research partnerships, will provide pivotal insights into COVID-19 immunity and help us develop future generations of tests."

Babson is one of only five clinical laboratories to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA for a serology (blood) test, including the prestigious Mount Sinai Laboratory - Wadsworth Center in New York.

Since Babson launched its test in Austin on April 30, it's been offering it for free to frontline and healthcare workers. It's also working with research centers, including Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, to conduct clinical studies to help with COVID-19 research — and future pandemics.

"When COVID-19 hit the U.S. and eventually Austin, the Babson team was inspired to contribute to the fight against one of the largest threats to global health in generations," said Chris DiPasquale, director of assay development for Babson. "While launching the aC19G1 test has been a significant achievement for Babson, it is only the first step in supporting long-term public health and national security."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Tvardi Therapeutics Inc. has fresh funds to support its drug's advancement in clinical trials. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company has raised millions in its latest round.

Tvardi Therapeutics Inc. closed its $74 million series B funding round led by new investors New York-based Slate Path Capital, Florida-based Palkon Capital, Denver-based ArrowMark Partners, and New York-based 683 Capital, with continued support and participation by existing investors, including Houston-based Sporos Bioventures.

"We are thrilled to move out of stealth mode and partner with this lineup of long-term institutional investors," says Imran Alibhai, CEO at Tvardi. "With this financing we are positioned to advance the clinical development of our small molecule inhibitors of STAT3 into mid-stage trials as well as grow our team."

Through Slate Path Capital's investment, Jamie McNab, partner at the firm, will join Tvardi's board of directors.

"Tvardi is the leader in the field of STAT3 biology and has compelling proof of concept clinical data," McNab says in the release. "I look forward to partnering with the management team to advance Tvardi's mission to develop a new class of breakthrough medicines for cancer, chronic inflammation, and fibrosis."

Tvardi's latest fundraise will go toward supporting the company's products in their mid-stage trials for cancer and fibrosis. According to the release, Tvardi's lead product, TTI-101, is being studied in a Phase 1 trial of patients with advanced solid tumors who have failed all lines of therapy. So far, the drug has been well-received and shown multiple durable radiographic objective responses in the cancer patients treated.

Dr. Keith Flaherty, who is a member of Tvardi's scientific advisory board and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, offered his support of the company.

"STAT3 is a compelling and validated target. Beyond its clinical activity, Tvardi's lead molecule, TTI-101, has demonstrated direct downregulation of STAT3 in patients," he says in the release. "As a physician, I am eager to see the potential of Tvardi's molecules in diseases of high unmet medical need where STAT3 is a key driver."

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