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Developing treatments for chronic diseases
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TheraVasc Inc., which is reformulating a drug to treat vascular diseases, has raised $1.8 million in its first round of investment capital.

The funding comes from existing investors JumpStart Inc. and Portal Capital, and new investors North Coast Angel Fund, Ohio TechAngels and Dayton-based Physician Investment Group. In addition, more than a dozen individual investors ponied up, CEO Tony Giordano said.

But Giordano isn’t stopping there. He’s keeping the offering open through the end of the year in the hopes of raising another $450,000. His company began the round in January, winning $500,000 from venture development organization JumpStart and Portal Capital.

The funding will go toward an ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial and a Phase 2a trial that Giordano hopes to begin in Cleveland early next year. The company is reformulating a drug — sodium nitrite — for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. The condition often afflicts diabetics and can result in the amputation of patients’ feet. The disease is being treated with blood clot-busting drugs, but what sufferers need is better blood circulation.

“There’s just nothing out there for many of these people,” Giordano said. “They have severe pain when they walk ,and they’re desperate for something.”

Sodium nitrite is available in injectable form, but TheraVasc is working to commercialize the drug in pill form. A capsule or tablet would not only be more user-friendly, it would allow for a sustained release that’d help patients maintain adequate levels of the drug over time.

The Phase 1 trial started in July and has completed the enrollment of three patients. Giordano hopes to enroll about 10 more before it wraps up in November or December. Then the plan is to start a Phase 2a trial at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals to investigate whether the drug improves blood flow and stimulates new blood vessel growth in diabetics.

Giordano lives in Louisiana, working as assistant dean of research and business development at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport. However, if things continue to progress with TheraVasc, he hopes to split his time between Cleveland and Louisiana in the coming months. A Northeast Ohio native, Giordano was lured back by in part by a $100,000 grant from the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE).

John Huston, a fund manager with Ohio TechAngels, said his group was impressed with the team of scientific advisers TheraVasc has assembled, as well as the drug’s potential to make a difference in the lives of diabetics.

“We are always interested in life science opportunities that could have a profound impact on mankind,” Huston said. That the investment helped bring an out-of-state company to Ohio is “the icing on the cake,” he said.

If the Phase 2a trial goes well, it could augur big things for TheraVasc. Then, the company could be an attractive acquisition or partnership target for a big pharmaceuticals firm, or it could be in a position to raise another venture round between $10 million and $20 million, Giordano hopes.

“We feel we’ll be in position to raise a significant financing to take the drug through an efficacy trial, or that there will be interest from a large biotech or pharmaceuticals firm,” he said.