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Former M.D. Anderson president’s new Houston company secures funding, seeks CEO

Houston-based biopharmaceutical company Tvardi Therapeutics Inc., which was co-founded by former University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center president Dr. Ronald DePinho, secured $9 million in a Series A financing round.

Tvardi develops a cancer drug that acts as an inhibitor to STAT3 — a signaling molecule that, when left unrestrained, can sometimes lead to the development of cancerous tumors and other “serious inflammatory and fibrotic conditions,” according to a Sept. 20 release from Tvardi and the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The $9 million generated from the Series A round will go toward Tvardi’s ongoing Phase I clinical trials and further development of the drug, called TTI-101.

DePinho, Tvardi co-founder and director, told the Houston Business Journal that the company is actively searching for a CEO to lead the company. The company currently has five employees and has an office at 7000 Fannin St.

DePinho stepped down from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in March 2017. He co-founded Tvardi later that summer, and incorporated the company in December. DePinho is still a professor at M.D. Anderson in the cancer biology department.

“(Leaving) M.D. Anderson (as president) really allowed me to pursue a number of things that I’m very passionate about,” DePinho said in a phone call to the HBJ. “It allowed me to focus on public health beyond the single institution and really look on a global scale.”

The $9 million Series A funds came from both private and institutional investors, DePinho said. An undisclosed amount of money came from the venture capital arm of Pasadena, California-based life sciences real estate firm Alexandria Real Estate LLC. The company’s funding so far has come from the Series A round as well as grant money, according to a company spokeswoman. Some of the unnamed private investors are based in Houston, who contributed a significant amount to the Series A funds, DePinho said.

The company does not yet produce revenue, according to a spokeswoman.

Tvardi’s oral drug, TTI-101, was created by company co-founder and president Dr. David Tweardy, who also serves as head of internal medicine at M.D. Anderson, according to the release. Using $15 million in grant funds, Tweardy developed the drug from concept to Phase I testing. DePinho said the drug has shown promise in reversing liver scarring caused by fibrosis and cirrhosis, as well as treating liver cancer in animal test subjects.

“David Tweardy is really passionate about helping patients,” DePinho said. “It’s the dream of every scientist to see their discoveries converted into things that can help patients, and David is trying to realize that dream.”

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