HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 182
Why this Houston innovator is racing to commercialize its unique treatment for neurodegenerative diseases
When Howard Berman sought out renowned Houston Methodist researcher and neurologist Dr. Stanley Appel, he was looking for treatment for his father, who was suffering from dementia. He wasn't looking for a job, but Dr. Appel had other ideas and asked Berman to meet with him.
"I was interested in what I could do for my dad," Berman says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, explaining how he took the meeting with Dr. Appel, who then presented him with some of his research. "By slide five my jaw had hit the ground.
"He had shown that he could stop the progression in one of his early trials of ALS," Berman says.
Not too long after that meeting, Berman, who founded digital health platform imaware, joined Dr. Appel to lead commercialization of Coya Therapeutics, a biotech startup that raised over $20 million in venture funding before going public a few months ago.
Coya has developed a biologics therapy that prevents further spreading of neurodegenerative diseases by making regulatory T cells functional again. Diseases like ALS, the company's focus right now, prevent T-regs from doing their job in controlling inflammation, and without these cells hard at work, the human body doesn't stand a chance in fighting autoimmune threats.
Berman, as co-founder and CEO, has been at the helm of the company leading it through both the fundraising and IPO processes. Coya's IPO occured in a tough market — only 12 biotech companies went public last year, he explains. To Berman, that just proves how passionate the team was about getting this product to those who need it.
"It really says something for the fortitude and our team to come together to make it happen," he says on the show. "We're able to deliver and execute in a difficult market climate.
"Once you're a public company, you have different expectations," he continues. "But you also have the opportunity to go out and attract additional investors in ways you can't do as a private company."
For Berman, whose father passed away earlier this year, it's a personal motivation that drives him to lead the company — as well as an opportunity to advance the city of Houston.
"The next number of years as we develop this therapeutic regimen for ALS, we have the potential to transform Houston into something more than it is currently," he says. "Our success will be the city's success."
Berman shares more of the Coya Therapeutics story on the podcast, as well as how he sees Houston's potential as an emerging hub for biotech. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.