April 20, 2023
Purdue Ventures invests in antibody-based cancer therapeutics company
TRIO Pharmaceuticals enhances the body’s immune system to effectively attack cancers
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue Ventures, which manages three funds to support Purdue University-connected startups, has invested $250,000 in TRIO Pharmaceuticals Inc., a cancer immunotherapeutics startup founded by a Purdue University biophysics and structural biology alumnus. The company’s antibody-based therapeutics strengthens the body’s defense, the immune system, to eradicate cancer.
Purdue Ventures’ investment is part of a larger $2.2 million series seed-funding round that includes investments from investor groups in the U.S. and Japan: NuFund Venture Group, SeedFolio, Friedman BioVentures, Tech Coast Angels, Newsight Tech Angels and others.
Shiva Bhowmik, TRIO’s founder and chief operating officer, said traditional approaches to developing anticancer drugs focus on eliminating cancer cells and activating the body’s immune system.
“These approaches don’t lead to the full enhancement of the body’s immunity to fight cancer because there is another bad actor involved: immunosuppressive cells,” he said. “These cells reduce the immune system’s ability to fight infections and diseases like cancer. TRIO Pharmaceuticals is the only company that has figured out how to selectively eliminate this bad actor.
“But if you eliminate just immunosuppressive cells, there isn’t a very strong enhancement of antitumor activity. So, the crux of what TRIO Pharmaceuticals does is to enhance antitumor immunity with a mix of directly eliminating both cancer cells and immunosuppressive cells.”
Bhowmik said Purdue Ventures’ investment and the funding round will allow TRIO to advance its technology and find the best drug candidates to further develop.
“This milestone is very critical for us,” he said. “Once we achieve it, it opens us up for further collaborations with large pharmaceutical companies and the possibility to raise future rounds of funding.”
TRIO has significant ties to Purdue.
“I earned my PhD in biophysics and structural biology from Purdue,” Bhowmik said. “During my tenure, Wayne Hockmeyer gave a talk as a distinguished alumnus of the Department of Biological Sciences. He had founded MedImmune, one of the world’s most renowned biotechnology companies that was eventually acquired by AstraZeneca.
“Wayne’s journey inspired me. He served his country as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army; he earned his doctorate and founded MedImmune. I was always very inclined to be an entrepreneur, and Wayne’s story inspired me to become an entrepreneur. Coincidentally, the structural biology building was dedicated to Wayne. I’m excited to maintain TRIO’s connections with Purdue through this investment from Purdue Ventures.”
Riley Gibb, associate director of Purdue Ventures, said TRIO Pharmaceuticals is a strong addition to the investment portfolio.
“TRIO is doing groundbreaking work in cancer therapeutics, which captured the interest of the investment committee,” he said. “The company has a unique perspective to address a worldwide problem. That and their connections with Purdue University make them a company we are proud to support and to follow their growth.”
About Purdue Ventures
With almost $20 million under current management, Purdue Ventures manages multiple pools of capital in collaboration with the university ecosystem and local corporations, enabling Purdue startups to improve the world.
About TRIO Pharmaceuticals
TRIO Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a cancer immunotherapeutics company pioneering dual-action drugs to generate immunogenic tumors. TRIO’s innovative antibody drugs directly stop tumor growth and selectively stop immunosuppression in the tumor without targeting the current immune checkpoint pathways. TRIO is developing a proprietary platform of dual-action tumor immunity-enhancing drugs aimed at treating cancers of high unmet medical needs by targeting specific antigens on the cancer cells and immunosuppressor cells. TRIO has an experienced team that has developed first-in-class FDA-approved drugs.
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