PITTSBURGH, Sept. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- PA Early Stage Partners, a family of venture funds that makes investments in early stage life sciences and information technology companies, announced today that it has made a seed investment in Azidex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company focused on the development of new therapeutic compounds that fight drug-resistance in strains of HIV, the causative agent of AIDS. PA Early Stage Partners has recruited an experienced CEO, John Logan, PhD, to lead its second University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) spin-out. The Pittsburgh-based company was founded by researchers and HIV physicians from UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"We are particularly excited to make our third investment in a Pittsburgh- based life sciences company thus far in 2005," said Paul Schmitt, Managing Director of PA Early Stage Partners. "Research initiatives at UPMC, The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University continue to yield world-class opportunities for commercializing new drug therapies, medical devices and drug discovery technologies."
More than 950,000 people in the U.S. are infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the causative agent of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), with approximately 360,000 patients actively receiving anti-retroviral treatment. The nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) such as AZT (Retrovir(R)) are first line drugs in the fight against AIDS and constitute approximately 60 percent of the more than $6 billion antiretroviral therapeutic marketplace. HIV resistance to these drugs ultimately limits their utility and stimulates the quest for new therapeutic options. NRTIs block HIV replication by preventing viral DNA synthesis. Resistance occurs due to genetic changes in the virus that then allow the efficient removal of the NRTI from the viral DNA, allowing the virus to continue replicating. This process is called nucleotide excision. Azidex has developed compounds that can inhibit "excision," and therefore restore NRTIs' effectiveness against previously resistant viral strains.
The current goal of the Company is to identify, from a library of compounds, the best candidate to enter formal preclinical development. The Company benefits from its experienced management team as well as its world- class expertise in anti-viral HIV drug discovery, medicinal chemistry and HIV clinical trials. John S. Logan, a founder and now Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Company, has more than 20 years of experience as a senior executive in the biotechnological industry, most recently as CEO of FIOS Therapeutics, Inc. Other company management and founders include Michael A. Parniak, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and Eric Oldfield, PhD, Alumni Research Scholar Professor of Chemistry and Professor Biophysics at the University of Illinois.
"More than 30 percent of HIV patients today have genetic mutations that can result in resistance to NRTIs such as AZT," stated Logan. "If we are successful in developing a new generation of therapeutics that can restore the
effectiveness of the NRTIs, the benefits to the lives of HIV-infected patients would be significant."
Azidex is the third life sciences investment this year made by PA Early Stage Partners in a Pittsburgh-based company. In June, PA Early Stage Partners made a Series A Investment in Cellumen, a systems cell biology company leveraging technology that was spun out of UPMC; and earlier in the year closed on an investment in Renal Solutions, the leader in sorbent-based hemodialysis solutions and services that maximize patient outcomes and quality of life.
Additionally, PA Early Stage Partners has made recent investments in two Pittsburgh-based technology companies - Haley Systems and BPL Global. Haley Systems provides business rules management software that empowers business professionals to externalize, manage, and deploy business logic using plain English instead of code. BPL Global aims to be the leading international provider of broadband services and smart grid applications via standard power lines.
Azidex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a drug development company pursuing the development of molecular compounds that will counter drug-resistance to NRTIs such as AZT (Retrovir) and other NRTIs used in the treatment of HIV, the causative agent of AIDS. The Company has identified initial compounds that prevent resistance to NRTIs and is currently in the process of identifying initial drug candidates prior to entering preclinical development. Based in Pittsburgh, the company draws upon its extensive research expertise and the support of PA Early Stage Partners.
About PA Early Stage Partners
PA Early Stage Partners, headquartered in Wayne, Pennsylvania and founded in 1997, is a family of venture funds that makes investment in early stage life sciences and information technology companies. With more than $235 million under management, PA Early Stage Partners invests in companies that are primarily based in the Mid-Atlantic region, with a focus on Pennsylvania. The Fund can be found on the Internet at http://www.paearlystage.com.
PA Early Stage Partners