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Houston hospital launches partnership with venture-backed therapeutics startup

MD Anderson has tapped an innovative new company to improve the efficacy of cancer treatments. Photo via

The sad reality is that not every cancer responds to medication, but a new collaboration is taking steps to close the gaps for scores of patients who were previously left without a clear solution.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Nexo Therapeutics announced last week that they are collaborating, a move that could lead to the discovery of therapies that could work for patients with limited treatment options.

The Colorado- and Massachusetts-based company joins forces with Houston’s cancer-fighting powerhouse after emerging from stealth with a $60 million series A.

“For many cancer patients, there are no therapies that target the fundamental drivers of their disease,” says Nexo’s founder and CEO, Andrew Phillips, in a press release. He goes on to say that the company’s innovations in covalent chemistry and chemical biology, along with cancer biology and medical chemistry allows it to advance novel therapies.

But in order to get the drugs that Nexo creates onto the market, it is taking advantage of MD Anderson’s first-rate translational research and expertise in drug development. Specifically, Nexo will work with MD Anderson’s TRACTION (Translational Research to AdvanCe Therapeutics and Innovation in ONcology) platform. The pairing will allow the two bodies to accelerate the development of small-molecule therapies through drug-enabling studies.

“Together with Nexo’s innovative platform, our integrated approach to translational research and drug development is poised to design and rapidly advance novel therapies against high priority oncology targets,” says Tim Heffernan vice president of Oncology Research for TRACTION at MD Anderson, in a press release. “This collaboration highlights our commitment to advancing innovative new medicines that address critical unmet needs for our patients.”

TRACTION is part of MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery Division. It combines a team of doctors, researchers, and drug development specialists to bring therapies from discovery to clinical trials. TRACTION researchers will work with Nexo to identify cancers that might be susceptible to their treatments, then find strategies to target them, and finally use biomarkers to help optimize patient selection.

Nexo will help to provide funding to support this research and will retain rights to programs under the collaboration, and will take sole responsibility for development, manufacturing, and commercialization. Meanwhile, MD Anderson may receive royalties and future payments based on milestones as they are obtained. But the real reward will be treating patients who were previously low on options.

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