Cincinnati is Home to a Robust Life Sciences Ecosystem
Earlier this month startup CinCor achieved a milestone in Cincinnati – the largest Series A financing raised by a company in the city.
CinCor raised the $50 million to support the development of a therapy aimed at the treatment-resistant hypertension and primary aldosteronism, a hormonal disorder that can lead to high blood pressure. CinCor acquired the rights to the medication from Swiss pharma giant Roche. CinCor’s financial bounty helps shine a light on the life sciences region in and around Cincinnati.
According to BioEnterprise, the Midwest saw a significant increase in life sciences investment last year. More than $2.5 billion was invested in the region, a 43% increase over the previous year. Ohio saw the biggest growth, with $560.1 million invested in 180 separate deals. In Cincinnati itself, there were 16 different investments totaling $81.8 million.
Part of what is driving growth in Cincinnati is its nationally ranked medical centers and research facilities like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the University of Cincinnati. The hospitals have spun off several companies, including Enable Injections, Eccrine Systems and GeneSight. The hospital environment has also been critical for clinical trials, such as the experimental cancer treatment under investigation by nearby Bexion Pharmaceuticals. Located miles from Cincinnati in nearby Covington, Kentucky, the company is developing an investigational cancer treatment for solid tumors and gliomas called BXQ-350. The drug was heavily researched at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Last year in a Phase Ia, the company reported positive results in seven glioblastoma patients. Of those, one was a high-grade glioma patient who showed stable disease signs for greater than 19 months. Earlier this year, Bexion announced it had secured financing of $25 million to advance its therapeutics and support a Phase II glioblastoma trial.
Another Cincinnati company driving growth in the region is Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, a company developing treatments for ocular diseases and diabetic complications. Despite a March setback with its lead asset AKB-9778 in a mid-stage trial for patients with moderate to severe non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the drug is showing promise in its ability to lower intraocular pressure in patients with diabetic macular edema and non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Another company growing in the Cincinnati ecosystem is Genetesis. Over the past few years the company has grown exponentially from five employees to more than 32 by the end of 2018. In March the company received FDA clearance to begin marketing its CardioFlux technology, a non-invasive 3D scanner that can diagnose heart diseases in just 90 seconds by using biomagnetic imaging, a passive tool that has zero radiation exposure, requires no injections and emits less energy than a TV. The data from CardioFlux is then transmitted to Genetesis’ Cloud system that uses AI and machine learning to analyze it. That data is then turned into a report with dynamic, functional imaging of the heart is generated for the clinician.
In 2016, six years after it was founded, Enable Injections, the developer of wearable medical devices, opened its Cincinnati manufacturing facility to manufacture its advanced On Body Delivery Systems to provide subcutaneous delivery of biologics. Following that, the company has pushed forward with product development through several key strategic partnerships with companies like Apellis Pharmaceuticals and UCB. The companies will harness Enable’s enFuse technology, a disposable medical device that will allow patients to self-inject prescription drugs with the touch of a button.
While CinCor secured the most assets of any Cincinnati company in a Series A, Enable Injections has been no slouch in the fundraising department. In the fall of 2018, Enable Injections raised $50 million in a Series B, led by Sanofi. The company is considered to be on track to become Cincinnati’s latest billion-dollar company as it moves closer to securing regulatory approval of the enFuse system.
Other companies are also contributing to the growth of the Cincinnati ecosystem. Clarigent Health is focused on the creation of an artificial intelligence and machine learning tool that will help health care providers detect warning signs of suicide ideation or other types of mental illness. Clarigent was formed last year with support from the children’s hospital and seed investor CincyTech. Earlier this month, Clarigent announced a pilot program with the Children’s Home of Cincinnati to test its AI-driven mobile decision support app in therapy sessions. The app uses artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms to analyze linguistic and vocal characteristics. It is designed as decision support software for the detection of early indicators of suicidality, violence and certain mental health disorders. The app has also been tested in hospital and clinical settings.