Cortado Ventures
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Cortado Ventures

CORTADO VENTURES

Let’s Talk About Soft Tissues (no, not Kleenex)

Glycologix Inc.’s Patented Biotech: Locally Delivered Soft Tissue Repair

A very special thanks to Cortado’s Research Fellow, Nathan Friels, in collaboration with Susan Moring, Mike Moradi, and Brooks Hensley.

If you’ve been around Oklahoma very long, you know that biotech was perhaps our state’s earliest foray into the tech startup world (see Alexion, Novazyme, Immy, Selexys, Sensulin, Cytovance, Biolytx, etc.), in part due to the tremendous work of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), early-stage biotech accelerators such as Ascend Bioventures, funding through programs like OCAST/i2E and the EDGE grants, and technologies coming out of our major research universities including the OU Health Sciences Center. Now, decades later, we’re seeing promising new biotechnologies from all around the country being developed and tested right here in Oklahoma City. Read on to learn about Cortado’s newest investment in one such technology, Boston-based Glycologix.

Introducing Super GAGs — Glycologix’s novel technology for soft tissue repair

Glycologix is a glycobiologics company that fits squarely in the medical application area of biotechnology. Glycobiology is the study of the structure, biosynthesis, and biology of saccharides or glycans (carbohydrates). The company is creating applications from these glycans, a patented polymer-based platform known as “SuperGAGs”. SuperGAGs are sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) that mimic the structures of natural proteoglycans (PGs) found in human tissues. PG’s perform important functions such as barriers, structural support and lubrication. These SuperGAGs have the potential to provide a range of solutions to soft tissue repair and rejuvenation needs.

IC/BPS — a complex, chronic urological problem you’ve probably never heard of

Glycologix’s first use case for this technology is for patients with Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome (IC/BPS). IC/BPS is a chronic bladder condition that results in bladder/pelvic pain, pressure, and frequent urges to urinate (basically the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, only they don’t ever go away. If you’ve had a UTI you can imagine how awful this must be). IC/BPS can have additional effects including lack of sleep, decreased productivity, lethargy, sexual dysfunctions, and emotional changes. Much of this is attributable to the insomnia resulting from nocturia (the need to urinate at night). In a survey of almost 1200 IC/BPS patients, roughly 55% reported fatigue, 49% insomnia, and 87% nocturia. Unfortunately, the cause of IC/BPS is still unknown, however, the root of the cause of the discomfort for most patients is known. The impermeable GAG barrier (part of the tissue that lines the inner layer of the bladder) is lost, which exposes the tissues to bacteria and urine solutes that cause the irritation.

Figure 1: A dysfunctional GG layer in the bladder leads to the bladder pain and discomfort symptoms that IC/BPS patients experience, as urine solutes and bacteria come into contact with the bladder wall.

IC/BPS is beginning to garner attention as a chronic health condition after being mistakenly diagnosed as a urinary tract infection for so long. As shown in figure 1, the global annual mean search activity for IC/BPS has grown every year from 2005 to 2015. This is insightful considering that 80% of all internet users in the US use the internet to access health information. The National Institute of Health predicts that the prevalence of IC/BPS will continue to increase, as urologists are likely to be referred more patients with symptoms that are consistent with modernized IC/PBS diagnostic criteria. The recent and projected growth in IC/BPS demonstrates a clear need for new and effective treatments that can improve quality of life for IC/BPS patients.

Figure 2: Mean Global Internet Search Activity for IC/BPS, 2004–2014

Glycologix as an IC/BPS solution

Glycologix’s patented SuperGAGs are a potential solution for IC/BPS. The SuperGAGs restore the lost glycosaminoglycan barrier by mimicking the protective layer on the inside of the bladder wall. This could provide much needed symptom relief and potentially give the tissues in the bladder a chance to heal. These treatments would be done multiple times a year to achieve maximum effects. This would drastically increase quality of life for patients with IC/BPS. It’s easy to see the need for such a technology, and for potential future applications of SuperGAGs.

We at Cortado are excited about what the future holds for Glycologix. The technology they are creating has the potential to make lasting impacts on millions of lives in the United States and beyond. The SuperGAG’s implications for IC/BPS are promising and life-changing for patients. Existing treatments for IC/BPS are limited in number as well as efficacy and fail to offer long term remedies to the chronic ailment, whereas Glycologix’s solution was intentionally designed to target the exact cause of the discomfort and potentially allow the tissues to heal. Soft tissues are found throughout our bodies and have countless vital functions. These SuperGAG’s are a platform technology that may one day create solutions for much more than our bladders.

Cortado and Glycologix

So how did a biotech company based in Boston (a hotbed of early-stage biotech development and investment) end up in our portfolio? Though based in Boston, Glycologix completed their preclinical work in Oklahoma City with OMRF and have worked extensively with esteemed local urologist Dr. Robert Hurst. With such an active presence in Oklahoma, Glycologix is an excellent fit for Cortado as an innovative life sciences company with a large potential market. It also has a strong founding team compiled of serial investors and biotech entrepreneurs. The founders combine for well over 50 years of experience commercializing life science technologies. Their CEO, Dan Deardorf has over 25 years of experience in this field on his own, much of it in the field of biopolymers and in pain related conditions.

Conclusion

The opportunity is ripe for Glycologix. They have the potential to pioneer IC/BPS treatment thanks to a strong base of intellectual property, a solid founding team, and lack of effective existing treatments. Their technology has the possibility to form revolutionary glycobiologic solutions to solve the many soft tissue ailments facing humanity today.

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Nathaniel Harding

Nathaniel Harding

Managing Partner for Cortado Ventures and Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum. Investor and advisor for tech startups, building a better future.