Trana Discovery hires former Glaxo execs

Former Neos Discovery has taken on a new name to more accurately reflect its area of expertise—Trana Discovery—and has also brought on board five former Glaxo executives to commercialize the company’s technology.

Chris Anderson
CARY, N.C.—After nearly 20 years of study and research into the delicate structure and mechanism of transfer RNA (tRNA), the former Neos Discovery has taken on a new name to more accurately reflect its area of expertise – Trana Discovery—and has also brought on board five former Glaxo executives to commercialize the company's technology.
 
Under a new business model that targets pharmaceutical companies with large bioactive compound libraries--versus its old model as a test company--Trana executives see great potential to provide exclusive licenses across a broad spectrum of infectious diseases including chronic diseases like HIV, as well as bacterial and fungal diseases.
 
"We've known since about 1999 that we had a drug discovery technology," says Winnell Newman president and co-founder of Trana. "But we had to do a lot of proof of principal at the bench before we could even think about getting the commercial guys on board. We also knew we didn't have the credentials, the experience and the contacts to get this to the people at the larger pharma companies who would understand our technology and eventually we would need to bring people like this on board."
 
That's where new CEO Steve Peterson and his management team come in. Peterson, who joined the company in late fall, has more than 30 years of drug development and commercialization experience with companies such as Glaxo, Eli Lilly and GlaxoWellcome. "I began working with the company as a consultant to help them refocus their business plan, but when I saw the potential of this technology it made sense for me to join them full time," Peterson says.
 
At its most basic level, Trana Discovery's technology screens for bioactive compounds that interrupt the lifecycle of pathogens via the inhibition of tRNA, which is know to be a vital component in the lifecycle of certain viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa. By inhibiting the role of tRNA and effectively stopping protein synthesis, protein assembly will not occur, which could effectively stop many infectious diseases dead in their tracks.
 
Because each pathogen uses a unique combination of tRNA, the folks at Trana say that a wide range of compounds with targeted anti-infective characteristics is possible. For this reason, the company hopes to provide licenses for entire infectious disease areas to allow pharmaceutical companies to identify, via Trana's assay, a broad swath of potential therapeutics.
 
"We think this is a unique business model we can provide to pharmaceutical companies," says Peterson. "Never before has anyone offered license to a technology like ours to an entire therapeutic area."
 
At present, one of the most promising therapeutic areas Trana can screen for is HIV. As such, the company is engaged in a proof-of-concept work using more than 40,000 bioactive compounds provided by the National Cancer Institute. The intent is to share that data with a potential licensee to show the value of the company's technology.
 
"HIV is also an area that makes a lot of sense for the Trana because of what we know about the steps HIV uses to create a new virus," says Peterson. "It is well known that there are 10 steps in that process. At present nine of those 10 steps are being researched. The only one not currently being researched is the 8th step, the one that involves tRNA."
 
At press time, Peterson says Trana in involved in a number of different discussions with pharmaceutical companies in a range of infectious disease areas. The company also recently received capital from a single "angel" investor that should fund it's operation for the next 18 to 24 months as the company works to commercialize its technology.

Chris Anderson

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