i&E BIO Edition 2023

Page 1

i2E celebrates 25 years of helping entrepreneurs build, launch, and grow great ideas

The University of Oklahoma transforms research into tangible impact


$35 million grant strengthens Oklahoma City biotechnology cluster


The Presbyterian Health Foundation is an established innovator of science research located in the heart of Oklahoma.

The Presbyterian Health Foundation has awarded more than $200 million to medical research, education and economic development in Oklahoma.

Focused on stimulating medical breakthroughs, PHF is committed to supporting Oklahoma scientists who are seeking causes and potential treatments across disease groups.

PHF’s continued commitment to funding in this area reflects its belief that innovative medical research is crucial to advancing the health and well-being for all Oklahomans today.

Passionate. Innovative. Bold. www.phfokc.com OKLAHOMA CITY
ideas to innovations that save and enhance human life.
WHAT’S INSIDE WELCOME A welcome from i2E CEO Scott Meacham 05 i2E CELEBRATES 25 YEARS A look back on i2E's impact on the Oklahoma entrepreneurial ecosystem 06 INVESTMENT HIGHLIGHTS Spotlights on i2E-supported companies and their biotech innovations 07 OMRF ADVANCES Explore recent breakthroughs by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists 10 BRINGING OKLAHOMA INNOVATION TO THE WORLD Boyd Street Ventures connects Oklahoma startups with tools for success 11 ATTACKING CANCER METASTASIS COARE Holdings, Inc. develops medications to treat late-stage solid tumor cancers 12 UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA ELEVATES THE STATE’S BIOSCIENCE INDUSTRY OU research innovation creates lifechanging technologies and advances the state's bioscience industry 14 BOOSTING BIOTECH Learn about the Build Back Better Grant that will enhance the OKC biotech cluster 16 Innovators & Entrepreneurs is produced by i2E, Inc., manager of the Oklahoma Technology Commercialization Center. For more information on any content contained herein, please contact i2E at 405.235.2305 © Copyright 2023 i2E, Inc. All rights reserved.

The i2E management and staff is composed of professionals with extensive experience in technology commercialization, business development, venture investing, and finance.

Scott Meacham


Rex Smitherman President

Mark Lauinger

Senior Vice President, Client Services

Judy Beech, CPA Vice President & Director, Finance

Darcy Wilborn Vice President, Operations

Michael J. Rohleder Executive-in-Residence

Rick Rainey Senior Venture Advisor

Shannon Carr Communications Director

Meredith Wilkerson, Ph.D. Life Sciences Venture Advisor & OKBio Director

Srijita Ghosh Venture Advisor

Marla O’Fallon

Tulsa Operations Coordinator

Gerda Elpedes Staff Accountant

Jennie Brandon Executive Assistant



Mark Poole | Chair

BancFirst Vinita

Brad Krieger | Vice Chair

Arvest Bank

Michael LaBrie | Secretary

McAfee & Taft

Howard G. Barnett, Jr. The Barnett Family Law Firm

Michael Basch

Atento Capital

Steve Cropper

Carl Edwards

Price Edwards Company

Philip Eller

Eller Detrich, P.C.

Tom Evans

Encompass Financial Services, Inc.

Chris Fleming REHCO, LLC

Danny Hilliard

Chickasaw Nation

Arthur Jackson

Tulsa Regional Chamber

Philip Kurtz CAREATC

Devon Laney 36 Degrees North

Rick McCune

Presbyterian Health Foundation

Jennifer McGrail OCAST

Mark Nance

American Fidelity Corporation

David Pitts

Simmons Bank

Ryan Posey

HSI Sensing

Meg Salyer

Broadway Realty

Darryl Schmidt


Craig Shimasaki

Moleculera Labs, Inc.

James Spann Jr. Boyd Street Ventures, LLC

Robert Thomas

George Kaiser Family Foundation

Rose Washington

Tulsa Economic Development Corporation

Andrew S. Weyrich

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

Roy Williams

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber

Duane Wilson

LDW Services, LLC


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A special thank you to our Sustaining Sponsors for their continued support!



Welcome to the 2023 edition of the Oklahoma BIO i&E magazine, where we showcase the latest discoveries and advancements in bioscience and life sciences from our state.

This year’s magazine is full of exciting developments in bioscience activity. You’ll find stories about many of our leading research institutions, several emerging companies, and the newly awarded $35 million Build Back Better grant that will fund six key bioscience projects in the Oklahoma City area.

We’re also celebrating the 25th anniversary of i2E, Inc., which produces this magazine, and will share a bit about how our organization has been a part of shaping biotechnology innovation in Oklahoma since 1998. Alongside Plains Ventures, an

• On page 11, learn how Boyd Street Ventures is impacting the Oklahoma entrepreneurial ecosystem through their unique startup funding and advising process.

• Find out the approach COARE Holdings, Inc. is developing to eliminate the cancer cells that cause tumor growth metastasis on page 12.

• Explore how University of Oklahoma researchers are advancing innovation in areas such as wound healing, ophthalmic diseases, advanced-stage ovarian, endometrial, and cervical cancer, and more on page 14.

• Read about the $35 million Build Back Better grant that is helping continue to transform Oklahoma City into an emerging bioscience hub on page 16.

• On page 18 and throughout the magazine, discover more about the Oklahoma Bioscience Association (OKBio), its sponsors and partners, and how these organizations are helping to create bioscience growth and impact throughout the state.

We are proud of the thriving life science research community in Oklahoma, and we hope this magazine provides insight into the meaningful work being done to improve the lives of millions worldwide. Enjoy the read!


For innovators and entrepreneurs, i2E helps build, launch, and grow great ideas. i2E is uniquely positioned as Oklahoma’s most experienced, trusted, and proven organization of its kind.

Over our 25-year history, i2E has provided business expertise and funding to more than 780 of Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses. With more than $101 million of investment capital under management, we are focused on serving companies in all phases of the business life cycle, from startups looking for their first round of capital to established businesses seeking funding to expand their markets or products.

We also help lead new business developments into the marketplace more efficiently and more quickly while providing guidance to bring more funding to Oklahoma’s researchers and entrepreneurs. Through our proven business and venture development process, we turn ideas into successful enterprises…i2E.


• Evaluate the market potential of new concepts

• Assist with evaluation of business plans, marketing plans and raising capital

• Provide guidance in building a management team, business structure and financial forecasting

• Assist with the developing an effective investor presentation

• Assist in obtaining funding through federal grant programs

• Work with research universities to encourage commercialization of research technologies

• Provide equity investment


Celebrating 25 years

i2E marks 25th year advancing Oklahoma biotech innovation

Since 1998, i2E has been a trusted partner in Oklahoma’s community and economy, walking shoulder-toshoulder with business owners and leaders to develop and strengthen their ideas, scale their companies responsibly, launch their ideas successfully, and ensure their relevance in the changing business landscape.

This year, i2E is celebrating its 25th year serving entrepreneurs and innovators, helping them to build, launch, and grow great ideas. Over the last two-and-a-half decades, i2E has seen the launch of portfolio companies working to advance medical technologies that prevent hospital acquired infections, help physicians visualize colonoscopy procedures more clearly, protect against accidental catheter disconnection, provide pain-free therapeutics that combat eye disease, reverse hearing loss, and much more.

As these new technologies draw closer to becoming available to patients worldwide, other promising discoveries continue to emerge from Oklahoma laboratories. Millions of dollars will be required to advance them to the market.

i2E works in partnership with Plains Ventures, an independent investment arm of the organization that manages both private and public funds. Plains invests in well-vetted deal flow out of i2E and from other sources in Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The two organizations are integrated and work together to build Oklahoma’s future economy literally from the ground up. The success of the companies that Plains invests in creates a “virtuous cycle” that feeds back into the pipeline of deal flow support at i2E.

The following pages provide a look into some of the bioscience companies that i2E has supported over the years, all of which share a common bond – i2E was critical in ensuring these companies had the capital and expertise necessary for success.

Like the past 25 years, the future of i2E continues to be focused on fueling biotech innovation in Oklahoma and supporting the latest in groundbreaking medical technologies for the betterment of the local community and the world.


• Over $90 million invested in 230 companies since inception.

• Invested over $36 million in 64 startup life sciences companies.

• Provided business expertise to over 780 startup companies.

• Funded the state of Oklahoma's first "unicorn," Alkami Technologies.


6 i&E | BIO Edition 2023

Wheeler Bio Closes $31 Million Series A Round

Wheeler Bio, Inc., a boutique contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) specializing in process development and small batch CGMP production of therapeutic antibodies, announced the closing of their Series A financing round.

The round was co-led by Charles River Laboratories (NYSE:CRL) and Echo with participation from ATUM, Floating Point Advisors, Pine Ridge Ventures, Plains Ventures, Seagull Capital, and Alloy Therapeutics.

Wheeler Bio is building a disruptive CDMO model that is changing the paradigm for the gene-to-IND supply chain. Their primary service offering, Portable CMC™, is an open source “CMC middleware” that delivers speed, efficiency, predictability, and freedom to operate by integrating discovery CROs and CDMOs and effectively bridging the translational gap.

Portable CMC™ includes a full complement of integrated development services, including manufacturability assessments, stable pool and clone development, process and analytical method development, process demonstration, and technology transfer into CGMP production. In addition, their platform enhances key business integrations that speed up the translational steps for their clients while lowering technical, regulatory, and business risks.

“Wheeler is at the forefront of phase-appropriate CMC drug development programming. We serve clients and partners with cutting-edge development services, including Portable CMC™,” said Dr. Jesse McCool, Co-Founder and CEO at Wheeler Bio. “The Series A validates our thesis that developers of next-gen therapeutic proteins want access to more focused development and manufacturing resources with high agility and small batch sizes to be successful. We are intentionally staying inside of the box.”

The company will use the Series A funds to complete its state-of-the-art CGMP cell banking and drug substance manufacturing facility (500 L scale) in The Ziggurat, a downtown

Oklahoma City office tower. The first CGMP production batches in the new facility will commence in Q3 of this year.

Dr. Brian Berquist, Chief Development Officer at Wheeler Bio said, “Wheeler is laser-focused on translational CMC while solving for clients’ timelines and budgets along the way to firstin-human studies. Our platform reduces risk by enhancing product and process knowledge gained using well-integrated tools, technologies, and digital solutions like Leap-In Transposase®, Solentim®, Ambr® Microbioreactors, DynaDrive Single-Use Bioreactors, the Synthace Experiment Platform, and DataHowLab.”

“Wheeler Bio’s advancements and continued growth embody Echo’s aim to reestablish American manufacturing jobs, reinforce critical industries, and solve problems for coastal companies by connecting overlooked domestic resources,” said Christian Kanady, Co-Founder at Wheeler Bio and Founding Partner at Echo. “Alongside respected partners, Wheeler Bio is connecting Oklahoma City with the global industry, accelerating drug development, and unlocking our region’s comparative advantages.”

The Ziggurat, Wheeler Bio's state-of-the-art headquarters Jesse McCool, Wheeler Bio CEO and Co-Founder

Revolutionizing Patient Care: IV Ensure™ Empowers Better Outcomes and Reduces Readmission Rates with At-Home

Remote IV Monitoring

Every Patient, Every Infusion, Every Time

IV Ensure™ is the first at-home, remote IV monitoring service that aims to increase patient home IV home infusion adherence and, by doing so, decrease hospital readmission rates for chronically ill patients. With U.S. hospital readmission rates for some chronically ill patients surpassing 50 percent and the estimated cost of medication non-adherence at $300 billion, hospital systems are looking for solutions.

The IV Ensure™ solution uses a patented, Level 1 FDA, remote monitoring device to provide real-time feedback to patients’ healthcare teams to ensure critical medications are being taken as prescribed. This is particularly important for patients with chronic illnesses, such as sepsis, pneumonia, osteomyelitis, urinary tract infections and other infectious diseases. When combined with comprehensive patient analytics provided through IVE Mind – a firstever cloud-based remote therapeutic monitoring system – and a dedicated 24/7 support team to deliver effective case management for inhome infusions, the result is increased patient antibiotic adherence and better health.

Currently in clinical trials with the University of Oklahoma Hudson College of Public Health and University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and seed-funded through i2E, IV Ensure™ aligns with a growing healthcare-at-home trend, as at-home technologies are more convenient and safer for patients – that any reduction of exposure to other diseases while in a hospital setting is most advantageous for the physical and emotional well-being of the patient. It was also recently chosen as the Oklahoma Venture Forum’s first finalist for “Venture of the Year.”

IV Ensure™ was founded in 2020 by Mitchell Berenson, MPH, a 20-year public health advocate and rural infusion services expert who earned a Master of Public Health graduate at the Hudson School of Public Health and served his residency at Johns Hopkins. He also holds patents in the U.S. and 58 other countries for technologies. Mitchell’s infusion adherence companies have monitored more than 80,000 patients across the U.S. since 2008; IV Ensure™ scales this same level of care to a global market.

Whether patients are managing conditions like sepsis, bone infections, autoimmune diseases, kidney infections, or any other health condition requiring IV treatment, IV Ensure™ serves as their dedicated accountability partner, helping them maintain their health and well-being.


Attach IV Ensure™ to Infusion Line

Patients can simply clip the IV Ensure™ Infusion Tracker to the outside of the IV line they already own.

IV Ensure™ uses cellular technology to monitor patient compliance. No Internet access required.

The IV Ensure™ system analyzes data in realtime to maximize healthcare value.

Communicate with Stakeholders

If noncompliance is detected, the IV Ensure™ team will contact the patient and notify caregivers.

Record Patient Data
Case Management
The IV Ensure™ Infusion Tracker can be clipped onto an existing IV line for remote monitoring. IV Ensure™ President and CEO Mitchell Berenson
The IV Ensure™ team accepting the first finalist award for Oklahoma Venture Forum's "Venture of the Year."

Linear Health Sciences Announces Expanded Pediatric Indication for Orchid Safety Release Valve

Oklahoma City-based Linear Health Sciences received an expanded indication from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for its Orchid SRV™, a tension-activated breakaway safety release valve designed to reduce the risk of IV catheter failure and replacement in hospitals. The expanded indication means that the Orchid SRV may now be used in patients two weeks of age and older.

The Orchid SRV is a sterile, single-use connector for needle-free access that, when activated, makes return to treatment fast, simple, and clean, while improving both the patient and clinician experience. Clinical simulation testing of 360 Orchid SRVs showed that the device prevented IV dislodgement by 91.1 percent across all test groups. The Orchid SRV is indicated for use during direct injection, intermittent infusion, and continuous infusion.

“Vascular access, especially in pediatrics, is long overdue for positive disruption,” said Dan Clark, co-founder and CEO of Linear Health Sciences. “Orchid SRV is already helping to change the standard of practice in vascular access and medical tubing applications in adult patient care, and we expect it to do the same for pediatric patients, creating a 360-degree continuum of care across all patient populations receiving IV treatments.”

Orchid SRV is placed between the existing IV extension set and general IV tubing connection intended to be used for delivery of fluids to and from an IV catheter. When tension (of up to 3.25 lbs.) acts on the IV line, the valve separates and seals off both sides of the IV, creating a sterile barrier. The clinician then restores the line simply by removing the separated halves and replacing them with a new, pre-packaged, sterile valve.

According to a study published in J-AVA, 95 percent of 1,561 U.S. clinicians surveyed agreed that IV dislodgements continue to pose significant safety risks for patients and hospitals. In fact, reports have shown that, of the 342 million peripheral IVs in the U.S. each year1, up to 10 percent may dislodge2, costing more than $2 billion annually3. Dislodgement is most frequently caused by patient confusion or removal of the catheter, loose dressing or tape, or tubing becoming tangled in bed linens.

In addition to the expansion of its sales and distribution footprint with regional distribution hubs in both the U.S. and Canada, Linear Health Sciences recently won an Innovative Technology Award for Orchid SRV from Vizient. The Orchid SRV device will be offered to hospital customers through a non-exclusive contract with the group purchasing organization (GPO), and qualified clinical evaluations of Orchid SRV will continually quantify device utilization and drive Linear Health Science’s next generations of innovation.

ALZARROK BIO, LLC Advances Promising Peptide Drug to Halt Alzheimer's Disease Progression

Alzheimer's disease is a multifactorial condition with a complex pathogenesis. Currently, there is no effective treatment available to halt its progression. ALZARROK BIO, LLC is an emerging biotech company that is built upon the groundbreaking research conducted by Anne Kasus-Jacobi, Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The primary focus of ALZARROK is the development of a highly promising peptide drug, complemented by a superior delivery system, with the goal of halting the decline in cognitive function associated with this debilitating disease.

ALZARROK's patent-pending, multi-targeted peptide offers an efficient and synergistic approach to inhibit both neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. This therapeutic

peptide is being specifically designed for intranasal delivery, which is expected to provide two significant advantages over intravenous administration: first, it will enhance targeting efficiency and minimize degradation, and second, it will allow for convenient selfadministration by patients.

In a recent milestone, ALZARROK secured a Pre-Seed investment from i2E. This Pre-Seed funding, combined with matching funds from various state and federal agencies, is projected to cover the costs of crucial early pre-clinical experiments. These pre-clinical and preInvestigational New Drug (IND) studies will be conducted in full compliance with FDA requirements, providing ALZARROK the data needed for a strong IND application.

Linear Health Science's Orchid SRV™ tension-activated breakaway safety release valve REFERENCES: 1 iData research report 2 "The Peripheral Intravenous Catheter Journey: A Prospective Cohort Study of 1000 Patients." Podium presentation by Nicole Marsh, RN, and Claire Rickard, RN, PhD, AVA 2017 ann 3 Helm, et al. “Accepted but unacceptable: peripheral IV catheter failure” J Infus Nurs May-Jun 2015;38(3):189203. doi: 10.1097/NAN.0000000000000100 linearsciences.com
Anne Kasus-Jacobi, Ph.D., ALZARROK founder



Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation are making incredible strides in developing experimental treatments and diagnostics for conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer and osteoarthritis.

Here are some recent breakthroughs that have the potential to transform patient care:


Drs. Wan Hee Yoon and Lijun Xia have used gene editing technology to reverse genetic mutations that cause severe neurodevelopmental issues, metabolic issues and skeletal dysplasia in children. Meanwhile, Dr. Courtney Griffin has identified a potential therapeutic for eye diseases characterized by blood vessel overgrowth in premature infants and people with diabetic retinopathy. Finally, Dr. Rheal Towner has developed an antibody that reduces tumor volume and increases cell death in glioblastoma multiforme, a rare and highly malignant brain tumor.


Sjögren’s disease affects as many as 4 million Americans. Current diagnostics for the painful autoimmune condition rely on biomarkers associated with Sjögren’s that fail to identify close to 40% of those with the disease. Drs. Darise Farris and Umesh Deshmukh have identified a distinct panel of biomarkers that stand to improve the diagnosis of the disease.


Heart disease is the number one cause of death globally, with patients with diabetes being particularly at risk. In OMRF’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program, Dr. Chi Fung Lee has shown that inhibiting an NAD-degrading enzyme can elevate NAD+ levels and improve metabolic cardiomyopathy. In neighboring labs, Dr. Sathish Srinivasan has discovered that the absence of a gene causes mitral valve regurgitation and that inhibiting PDGF-β signaling can partially reverse this dysfunction, and Dr. Jasim Ahamed has identified a potential therapy for aortic stenosis by blocking the activation of a platelet-derived protein called TGF-β1.


Despite the 32 million Americans living with osteoarthritis, no disease-modifying drugs exist for the debilitating condition. Scientists’ inability to accurately subset patients as progressors or non-progressors leads to failed clinical trials. At OMRF, Dr. Matlock Jeffries has identified novel epigenetic biomarkers that can predict OA progression. His work on OA-protected mice has also suggested that gut microbiome transplantation is a potential therapy for the condition.


Dr. Rheal Towner has discovered that OKN-007, an experimental anti-inflammatory compound, can protect motor neurons and prevent the late-stage progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS. The drug also has potential to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and solid tumors like endometrial, colon and pancreatic cancers. It is currently in phase 2 trials to treat patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.


As people age, they experience a loss of muscle mass and strength, which can become more pronounced after age 65. This can lead to difficulty performing daily tasks, making older adults more susceptible to falls. Dr. Holly Van Remmen’s research has shown that the reduced function of a calcium pump contributes to age-related muscle atrophy and that pharmacological stabilization of this pump can reverse these effects.

10 i&E | BIO Edition 2023

Bringing Oklahoma Innovation to the World

Boyd Street Ventures was created to support the economic growth of the State of Oklahoma while generating above-average returns for investors by funding and advising Oklahomaaffiliated startups. BSV's model is designed to help build Oklahoma's entrepreneurial ecosystem and give Oklahoma-based startups the financial resources and strategic and operational tools necessary to stay and grow in Oklahoma.

The majority of BSV’s portfolio companies come from the ecosystems of the University of Oklahoma or other state universities, from alumni of those schools, or through some other Oklahoma connection. The firm also created the Boyd Street Endowment Fund to support Oklahoma companies led by minority, female and SEDI founders.

BSV got its start when James Spann – a Marine veteran, long-time c-suite executive and avid OU alum – and Jeff Moore – a Navy veteran, ex-McKinsey consultant, and Executive Director of OU’s Ronnie K. Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth – got tired of seeing so many promising Oklahoma startups fail due to the inability to raise the funding necessary to launch and scale their innovations.

They founded BSV in 2021 around a unique strategy: Rather than taking a hands-off approach like most VCs, they would be “active investors” in their under-the-radar portfolio companies by making their experienced staff and high-powered Advisory Board available to provide strategic and operational advice. This de-risking guidance allows companies to scale faster and more profitably, which allows BSV to target “above the crowd” returns for its investors.

In just over a year since launching its Fund I, BSV has invested in 10 companies with Oklahoma connections, two of which are participants in the BSV Venture Studio. Messrs. Spann and Moore plan to continue investing in 6-to-10 startups annually and bring Oklahoma innovation to the world – and growth and prosperity to Oklahoma – for many years to come.

(800) 393-1595 A RLOK.COM Get Products to Market Faster with Contract Laboratory Testing Services Your Testing Solution Starts Here Protein A ggre g a t i o n Protein Size and Charge Variant M e t h o d Development a n d Va lidation StabilityStudies SterilityandEndotoxin R EQUEST A QUOTE
Boyd Street Ventures Founder James Spann at their Campus Corner headquarters.


COARE Holdings Inc. is an OKC-based pre-clinical stage pharmaceutical company working to develop medications designed to treat late-stage solid tumor cancers. Metastatic cancers are by far the most prominent causes of mortality associated with nearly all solid tumor cancers. Colon, breast, ovarian, and pancreas are examples of tumors where safe and effective therapies that can prevent metastasis will fill a major unmet medical need.

"Current standard therapies for these solid tumor cancers often contain highly toxic cocktails that often dramatically reduce the quality of life of patients with minimal improvement in-patient survival. Moreover, many patients that experience effective initial responses often recur and experience metastasis due to the development of drug resistance," Courtney W. Houchen MD, co-founder of COARE Holdings Inc., said.

"Our exciting new platform technology is based on eliminating the cancer cells responsible for tumor growth metastasis and resistance to most chemo, radio and even the newer immunotherapies."

The approach COARE is using is based on a novel cellular based immunotherapy platform in combination with anti-proliferative targeted strategy that utilizes a personalized medicine scheme to overcome resistance and prevent metastasis in patients with late-stage solid tumor cancers. The technology was developed in the Houchen Lab at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and is exclusively licensed to COARE Holdings Inc.

"We are extremely excited and poised to develop and commercialize this ground-breaking technology designed to improve the survival and reduce the overwhelming and often debilitating burden to families that have loved ones suffering from cancer," said Edwin Bannerman-Menson, CEO of COARE.

The term COARE was initially chosen to emphasize that a small subset of cells at the CORE of tumors are responsible for starting the tumor, helping the tumors grow and metastasize and these cells are the major cause of resistance to therapy. "The fundamental focus of COARE’s anticancer therapeutic program is based on their identification of the novel master regulatory protumorigenic protein Double Cortin like Kinase 1(DCLK1). DCLK1 is overexpressed in most solid tumor cancers and has been recently described as an exciting target for drug development," Bannerman-Menson said.

COARE is excited about the potential of their approach to finally attack the root cause of cancer metastasis while simultaneously overcoming drug resistance and reactivating the patient’s anti-tumor immunity thus fulfilling the major unmet medical need in cancer treatment. Holdings Inc. coareholdings.com

Pure Protein, L.L.C. and Pure MHC

The premier suite of innovation, experience, and capabilities in Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) research.

Pure Protein, L.L.C. uses advanced technology to create soluble HLA proteins. These proteins can be used for diagnostic and therapeutic development applications. Over 250 HLA proteins are available for research use along with related services from the website.

Please visit HLAprotein.com

Pure MHC is a leader in the discovery and validation of HLA peptide targets for immunotherapy in cancer, autoimmunity, and infectious disease, based on Pure Protein’s soluble HLA technology and deep domain expertise in disease-specific HLA presentation.

Please visit puremhc.com

University of Oklahoma Elevates the State’s Bioscience Industry

University of Oklahoma researchers develop life-changing technologies

The University of Oklahoma is a dedicated contributor to the advancement of the state’s bioscience industry. With six professional colleges and the Graduate College located within the academic medical campus (OU Health Sciences Center), clinical and translational research programs, centers of excellence, and robust basic science programs, OU is proud to conduct life-changing research that economically benefits the state. A strong driving force for OU’s economic impact is the commercialization of intellectual property through licensing, partnering, and the creation of start-ups. The OU Office of Innovation and Corporate Partnerships, together with the Office of Technology Commercialization, assists researchers in transforming research innovation into tangible impact for the betterment of society.

Researchers at the OU Health Sciences Center have produced several spin-out companies that have successfully partnered with the pharmaceutical industry. Three such companies are Pure Protein, Heparinex, and Choncept, which were all funded in large part by Austin-based Emergent Technologies, Inc.

William Hildebrand, Ph.D., is founder and chief scientist for Pure Protein and its subsidiary, Pure MHC. Pure MHC is a discovery and development company with platform technology and expertise in disease-specific target identification and validation, as well as immunotherapeutic drug development for cancer, infectious disease, and autoimmune disease. In April 2022, Pure MHC and Myrio Therapeutics announced a collaboration to develop new antibody-based oncology therapeutics.

Heparinex and Choncept, two companies based on carbohydrate research expertise from Paul DeAngelis, Ph.D., have also entered into commercial deals with large pharmaceutical companies. Caisson, a subsidiary of Heparinix, subsequently partnered with Novo Nordisk and Corden Pharma to commercialize their HEPtune® platform technology. The OU Health Sciences Center has also participated in the research and development of a novel antibody therapeutic for sickle cell disease. Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp. developed the therapeutic through Phase 2 clinical trials and was then acquired by Novartis in 2016. A Selexys spin-off, Tetherex Pharmaceuticals, continues to develop novel therapeutics targeting cell adhesion proteins in thrombotic, inflammatory, and oncologic diseases.

Emerging biotech companies that continue forging the path for OU start-up companies include COARE, Moleculera Labs, Biolytx, Excitant Therapeutics, and Hexakit, Inc.

Courtney Houchen, M.D., is founder and Chief Medical Adviser of COARE Biotechnology. COARE is a multidisciplinary drug development company that has several novel therapeutic technologies aimed at eradicating cancer system cells and associated metastatic processes.

Moleculera Labs originated from the research of Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D. Moleculera produces clinical assays for use in determining whether an autoimmune reaction is causing neurological or psychiatric symptoms. Testing with the Cunningham Panel™ to measure circulating levels of antibodies aids physicians in the identification of infection-triggered autoimmune neuropsychiatric conditions and guides target treatments.

14 i&E | BIO Edition 2023

Biolytx Pharmaceuticals was founded by and is based on research by Anne Pereira, Ph.D. Biolytx is a drug development company confronting the crisis in antibiotic drug resistance through the advancement of a suite of antimicrobial peptide drug candidates for use in wound healing and in the treatment of serious hospital-acquired infections.

Excitant Therapeutics is an Oklahoma City-based start-up company developing pre clinical therapeutics resulting from the interdisciplinary effort of Adam Duerfeldt, Ph.D., Jian-Xing Ma, M.D., Ph.D., and Henry Shin, Ph.D. Excitant has secured over $1 million in SBIR grant funding to develop novel therapeutic agents for ophthalmic diseases.

Hexakit, Inc., is an Oklahoma-based biopharmaceutical company originating from the research of Vibhudutta Awasthi, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Research at the OU College of Pharmacy. Hexakit is engaged in early stage research and development of drugs and diagnostic agents for cardiovascular, oncologic, and neurologic diseases. The company is also a worldwide supplier of key pharmaceutical ingredients, intermediates, and fine chemicals.

Groundbreaking research from University of Oklahoma College of Medicine enters clinical trial testing.

Rodney Tweten, Ph.D., identified a serotype-independent mutant pneumolysin toxin of Streptococcus pneumonia, the primary bacterial cause of community-acquired pneumonia and meningitis. This technology is part of a novel fusion-protein vaccine that recently entered Phase 1 clinical testing.

OK-1, a vitamin A derivative developed by Doris Benbrook, Ph.D., received FDA approval for a Phase 1 clinical trial, which is currently underway at Stephenson Cancer Center, in women with advanced-stage ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer. The drug, which additionally shows promise in preventing cancer, will also be tested in the Cancer Prevention Clinical Trials Network, a program of the National Cancer Institute. Augmented reality technology originating from OU College of Medicine and OU Health receives FDA clearance.

Xironetic, founded by Christian El Amm, M.D., creator of the platform technology, is developing a three-dimensional hologram-based technology to provide enhanced surgical planning and visualization for improved outcomes.

Mobile Health Platform technology for the creation of applications with real-time interventions capabilities to aid in behavioral modifications from Stephenson Cancer Center’s Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center.

Michael Businelle, Ph.D., and his TSET team lead the mHealth Core and have created an easy-touse, efficient platform, Insight, that allows for the creation of mobile applications by researchers or others interested in studying, tracking and improving behavior changes such as smoking cessation.

Advancing Research INNOVATION

Researchers at the OU Health Sciences Center, located both on the Oklahoma City and Tulsa campuses, are consistently well-funded.

Highlights from the research enterprise include:

• In fiscal year 2022, OUHSC researchers earned 762 sponsored awards worth a total of $179.3 million.

• In fiscal year 2020, OUHSC set an institutional record, earning $190 million in sponsored funding.

• Funding from the National Institutes of Health, considered the key benchmark for research productivity and reputation on campus, comprises more than half of overall funding.

• Two departments in the OU College of Medicine — Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Family and Preventive Medicine — are ranked in the top 20 medical school departments in the United States for research funding from the NIH.

• Strategic research areas are cancer, diabetes, neurosciences/vision, infectious diseases, and geroscience.

• The OU Health Sciences Center is home to the largest and most advanced biomedical infrastructure in Oklahoma.

For additional information about research endeavors and technologies available for licensing from OU Health Sciences Center, contact: Office of Research Administration | (405) 271-2090 | research.ouhsc.edu Office of Technology Commercialization | (405) 271-7725 | ou.edu/otc

Build Back Better Grant provides boost to Oklahoma City biotech cluster

Years ago, biotech and biosciences were not words you would typically associate with Oklahoma City, let alone be able to picture a thriving sector that employs more than 50,000 people. But times are changing, and they are changing fast due to some recent strategic investments.

To capitalize on bioscience assets already in place and help diversify itself away from an economy over-reliant on energy, Oklahoma City has steadily – and intentionally – transformed itself into an emerging bioscience player over the last few decades, garnering attention from across the nation and the globe. One national publication last year even named Oklahoma City as one of five emerging life science development hubs. Accolades like that were not achieved by accident, nor has it been an easy path. Rather, it has been realized through the cooperative and collaborative efforts from several public and private entities and leaders, all of whom understood the importance of strengthening Oklahoma City’s standing in this increasingly global marketplace.

Last September, the Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster (OBIC) Initiative was awarded a $35-million grant through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge administrated by U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Oklahoma was one of just 21 communities in the United States to be awarded the grant to invest in emerging industries. The Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster (OBIC) Initiative, a coalition spearheaded by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber alongside primary partners including the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Innovation District, and with industry leadership from Echo Investment Capital, is another great example of how partnership has helped create a bioscience sector in the plains.

The OBIC coalition is supported by more than 40 partners across academia, tribal nations, government, industry, community, investors and other key stakeholders involved in the continued development of the burgeoning biotechnology cluster in Oklahoma and the money will be used to fund six core projects:

• OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center for Therapeutic – Translational Research Labs: development of 10 translational research labs dedicated to drug discovery within the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center.

• Oklahoma Biotech Startup Program – supportive programming to build a vibrant regional biotech startup pipeline led by the University of Oklahoma.

• The University of Oklahoma Biotech Core Facility – a new facility with state-of-the-art high-throughput, advanced bioprocessing equipment and services for instructors and researchers at OU, local nonprofit organizations like the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), and private companies like Wheeler Bio.

• OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Early Phase Clinical Trial Network – an initiative to double the size of the existing clinical trial program at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center, commensurate with the demand for Phase I trials created through accompanying translational science investments and industry growth.

• Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Center – a new program housed in the Oklahoma City Innovation District to meet the growing demand for skilled labor in the OBIC, which will enable the formation of inclusive, non-degreed career pathways into high-wage jobs.

• Oklahoma Bioscience Cluster Initiative – an initiative to lead regular convenings of industry leadership, conduct needs assessments, encourage regional connectivity and spur policy advocacy.

“Obviously, the grant money will be transformative not just for our local biotech cluster but for the whole state,” said Jeff Seymour, executive vice president of economic development for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “But what was extremely rewarding was to see how leadership came together, in the public and private sector, across industries to put Oklahoma’s best foot forward to secure this highly competitive grant.”

Even Oklahoma City residents understand what a thriving bioscience sector means for the long-term economic viability of Oklahoma City. For instance, one of the 16 projects approved by Oklahoma City voters as part of the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) 4 initiative is a $10 million matching grant that will go toward the construction of an innovation hall in the city’s Innovation District. The innovation hall will serve as a central place where activities to grow Oklahoma City’s innovation economy can be facilitated. In addition to the innovation hall, residents also approved funds to

16 i&E | BIO Edition 2023

construct the Henrietta B. Foster Center for Northeast Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship, connectivity in and around the Innovation District and operating funds for these projects. In total, Oklahoma City citizens voted on more than $71 million to be invested in the Innovation District.

This investment has already led to major private development with the announcement of Convergence. This development will include the innovation hall as well an office tower, 50,000-square-feet of lab space, a hotel, retail, public space and more.

This entrepreneurial spirit has served Oklahoma City well as OKC’s bioscience and biotechnology sector has grown into a $7 billion industry and boasting a workforce of approximately 50,000. With established bioscience players such as OMRF, where researchers have made ground-breaking discoveries for several major human diseases; the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and its seven medical schools; pharmaceutical manufacturer Cytovance Biologics; and relative newcomer and bio-manufacturer Wheeler Labs, who in 2020 developed Oklahoma’s first at-home COVID-19 test, Oklahoma City is poised for continued growth in the bioscience and biotechnology sector.

An array of Oklahoma City companies has already established its footprint within the bioscience and technology space, and there are a variety of startups that are on their way to achieving success as part of this incredibly important sector. It is no surprise then that they and other fellow startups, not only in the bio world but in other emerging or established business sectors, had their genesis in Oklahoma City. After all, Oklahoma City has developed a reputation for being a great place for startups. Last year, Oklahoma City was named one of the best cities for startups by Real Estate Witch and has the lowest cost of living for a major metro.

“More than two decades ago., the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber spearheaded the effort to examine how to leverage some great bioscience assets in our community to truly create a thriving cluster,” said Seymour. “All these years later to see the EDA decide this is something they need to invest in and to see our citizens decide to vote to invest in the sector so heavily, through MAPS 4, is great validation we are on the right track. It is inspiring to see the hard work of so many people over the past couple of decades start to pay off. It feels like we are on the tipping point of something major when it comes to biotech in Oklahoma.”

For more information on doing biotech business in Oklahoma City contact the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber economic development team at (405) 297-8900 or econdev@okcchamber.com

Local biotech leaders with U.S. Economic Development Administration representatives during a visit to Oklahoma City.

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Alba Weaver leads our Economic Development & Community Affairs efforts in 267 cities & towns across OG&E’s service area. Since 2021, we have helped support 81 new or expansion economic development projects that attracted an estimated 10,000 jobs and more than $4 billion in outside investments.

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The mission of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association is to promote the growth of biosciences and life sciences in Oklahoma through partnership building, education and outreach, networking, policy development and publicity.


The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) is a driving force behind Oklahoma's innovation and techbased economic growth. Its programs have created over 2,000 new jobs and generated a remarkable financial impact of $1.4 billion. By fostering collaboration between academia, industry, and government, OCAST fuels breakthroughs in various sectors. Through grants, services, partnerships, and internships, it empowers innovators and entrepreneurs to pioneer advancements in biotech, aerospace, and more. OCAST's support extends beyond the lab, nurturing a thriving ecosystem for innovative ideas from concept to commercialization.

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is dedicated to both basic and translational research, with patient-centered care and research ongoing at the Stephenson Cancer Center, the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center and the Dean McGee Eye Institute.

The University Research Park is part of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The complex consists of more than 700,000 square feet of modern biomedical research lab and office space supported by state-of-theart communications and infrastructure systems.

The Noble Research Institute is the largest private foundation in the country conducting plant science and agriculture research. The Noble Research Institute offers no-cost consultation and education to farmers, ranchers and land managers, and educates students of all ages about science and agriculture.

Oklahoma State University has leading expertise in biological and chemical processes with basic and applied researchers in areas ranging from pediatric psychology to respiratory infectious diseases. Multiple researchers across many departments and colleges

are also focusing R&D efforts on developing and enhancing drug delivery methods in both humans and animals.

One of OKC’s newest districts, the Innovation District, houses internationally-acclaimed research and technology professionals, and encompasses about 1.3 square miles east of downtown Oklahoma City and south of the State Capitol.

The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) is a non-profit biomedical research institute located in Oklahoma City. OMRF is dedicated to understanding and curing human disease through innovative research and scientific discovery.

In the past 2 years, i2E Inc. has invested over $5 million in 13 startup bioscience or life science companies and has invested a total of over $37 million the past 22 years.

• Agricultural productivity • Autoimmune diseases and Immunology • Biofuels • Cancer • Cardiovascular Research • Glycobiology and Carbohydrates • Infectious Disease and Microbiology • Natural Products for Health • Plant Improvement • Value-Added Food Product • Vision Research


are just a handful of homegrown Oklahoma City startups who are making national headlines. No matter if it is tech, bioscience, aviation, energy or everything in between, the entrepreneurial climate here is breeding big success. We want to help ensure startup success for you in OKC. Whether you are trying to raise capital, are interested in potential incentive offerings or our entrepreneurship resources, let us be your gateway to OKC’s burgeoning startup scene.

Bio, Otologic Pharmaceutics and Linear Health Sciences
GREATEROKLAHOMACITY.COM Greater Oklahoma City Partnership | 123 Park Ave., Oklahoma City, OK (405) 297-8990 | econdev@okcchamber.com