Trio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (TRIO) has been bootstrapping the development of its “three arm” approach to treating cancer since its founding – until now.
In March, the San Diego-based TRIO announced a $2.2 million seed round, led by local investors SeedFolio, NuFund Venture Group and Friedman BioVentures and also, from Purdue University’s endowment fund and Japan-based Newsight Tech Angels Inc.. The seed funding follows a $400,000 SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant awarded to the company in September 2022.
TRIO’s Chief Operating Officer Shiva Bhowmik, Ph.D., who founded the company in 2018 with money from his personal 401K, described the recent funding sources as “strong validation” of what the company is doing.
“I think that it shows the strong credibility for the team that we have,” he said.
That strong team includes CEO and co-founder Reiner Laus, MD, who joined Bhowmik in 2021, bringing decades of experience in developing immunotherapeutic drugs.
‘Kill Two Bad Actors’ Approach
TRIO Pharmaceutical’s cancer therapeutics platform includes novel dual action antibody drugs to attack the tumor cells and also the immunosuppressor cells, that suppresses the body’s immune system, thereby boosting the immune response to cancer.
“We developed the first antibody approach to kill two bad actors at the same time,” Laus said. Early therapies looked at destroying cancer cells and while it was somewhat effective, the cancer always came back. So you have to do more than one thing to really treat cancer.
“We’re really working all three arms,” he added. “We are killing cancer cells, killing immunosuppressants and enabling the immune system.”
TRIO is working on two novel platform technologies:
TRIOBody Drug Conjugate, a first-in-class antibody drug conjugate (ADC) that utilizes targeted payload delivery to kill both cancer cells and immunosuppressor cells.
TRAILBody, a first-in-class “naked antibody” approach – an antibody by itself that kills tumor cells and immunosuppressor cells with the same potency as ADCs and CAR-Ts with less side effects to normal cells.
SeedFolio Managing Director Joe Gatto described Trio’s platform as “novel constructs with proven parts to attack cancers by two different approaches” built by “skilled antibody architects and engineers.”
“These two shots on goal have been validated with their SBIR grant and with proof-of-concept studies in animals,” he said. “The team is extremely focused on driving these therapies to the clinic where they could have a huge potential impact for cancer patients. SeedFolio is pleased to have co-led Trio’s seed financing which will significantly advance Trio’s development efforts.”
In addition to attracting funding this year, in 2020, TRIO’s platform attracted the interest of Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services, a leading biopharmaceutical CDMO. The two companies announced a collaboration agreement to utilize Aji Bio-Pharma’s AJICAP technology to develop TDC.
Trio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
CEO: Reiner Laus, MD
Headquarters: San Diego & San Francisco
Business: Cancer therapeutics company
Notable: Trio’s antibody drugs directly stop tumor growth and selectively stop immunosuppression in the tumor without targeting the current immune checkpoint pathway.