News and Information

 

Please select an article title below:

1. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Announces Completion of Run-in Enrollment of Phase 2 Study of EP-100 Plus Paclitaxel in Advanced Ovarian Cancer-Randomized Treatment Phase is Actively Enrolling Patients

2. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Presents Results From Phase 1 Study of EP-100 in Advanced, Refactory LHRH-Receptor Expressing Solid Tumors at ASCO

3. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Initiates Phase 2 Clinical Trial of its Novel Membrane-disrupting Agent, EP-100, in Patients with Advanced Ovarian

4. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Presents Poster at AACR Annual Meeting Demonstrating Synergy of Lead Candidate EP- 100 with Paclitaxel in In Vitro Studies

5. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Closes Oversubscribed Series B Financing
6. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Completes $7.5 Million Series B Financing

7. Third Candidate from Esperance’s Targeted Anti-cancer Platform, EP-302, Establishes Preclinical Proof of Concept- MacDougall Biomedical Communications
8. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Announces Initiation of Clinical Studies of its Novel Membrane-disrupting Agent, EP-100, in Patients with Cancer
- PRNewswire
9
. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Announces Initiation of Clinical Studies of its Novel Membrane-disrupting Agent, EP-100, in Patients with Cancer- PRNewswire
10
. Contraflow- Baton Rouge Business Report
11
. Beyond Plows, Sows and Cows- Baton Rouge Business Report
12
. Pharmaceutical Firm Announces Opening of Headquarters- Baton Rouge Business Report
13
. Start-Up Gets Funding For Anti-Cancer Drug Research- Baton Rouge Advocate Article
14
. B.R. Biotech Firm Starts Clinical Studies on Cancer Drug- Baton Rouge Business Report
15
. Innovation Spotlight: The Science of Hope- Louisiana Economic Development: Economic Quarterly
16
. Bio Century
17
. First Candidate from Esperance's Targeted Anti-cancer Platform, EP-100, Establishes Preclinical Proof of Concept- MacDougall Biomedical Communications
18
. Cancer drug nears testing- Baton Rouge Advocate Article
19
. Pet sterilization work led to cancer research- Baton Rouge Advocate Article
20
. First Louisiana Biotech Company Focused on Cancer Announces Opening- Esperance Pharmaceuticals Press Release
21
. Esperance Pharmaceuticals Closes $9 Million Series A Funding - Esperance Pharmaceuticals Press Release

 

 

 

 

New drug aims to 'seek and destroy' many types of cancer. - (PDF version)(TV Link)

PhysOrg.com

EVERGREEN,VA (Oct 5, 2009)
A new drug designed to "seek and destroy" common cancers such as breast, prostate, endometrial, pancreatic, ovarian, skin and testicular cancers is being tested at TGen Clinical Research Services (TCRS) at Scottsdale Healthcare.

The Phase 1 clinical trial will help determine if EP-100 is safe and effective for use among patients with solid cancer tumors, with fewer side effects than chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

TCRS is a partnership of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Scottsdale Healthcare. The partnership allows molecular and genomic discoveries made by TGen and others around the world to reach the patient bedside in the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare as quickly as possible through clinical trials with agents directed at specific targets in patients' tumors.

According to Ramesh K. Ramanathan, MD, principal investigator for the trial in Scottsdale, the drug is a membrane-disrupting peptide (tMDP) designed to "seek and destroy" cancer cells by targeting those with excessive luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) receptors.

Excessive LHRH receptors are found in a wide range of cancers, including breast, prostate, endometrial, pancreatic, ovarian, skin and testicular cancers.

Mike Janicek, MD, a Gynecologist Oncologist who practices at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare said, "I am looking forward to participating in the study with EP100, especially for ovarian and uterine cancer patients. Often patients with advanced cancer will need new therapies and a targeted treatment like EP100 is the next frontier of research."

The study is designed to evaluate the safety of EP100 and will enroll as many as 36 adult patients with solid tumors whose tumor biopsies indicate that they have excessive LHRH receptors.

EP-100 will be administered intravenously for three out of four weeks. Once the maximum tolerated dose has been established, additional subjects with specific diagnoses of either breast, ovarian, endometrial, pancreatic or prostate cancer will be enrolled. EP-100 is produced by Esperance Pharmaceuticals of Baton Rouge, La., and was culled from a range of drugs tested at TGen Drug Development Services (TD2) in Scottsdale.

"It brings with it a killer, a toxin. It's a way of targeting a toxin to the cancer tumor cells,'' said Dr. Steve Gately, president and chief scientific advisor at TD2. "Our goal would be to find that set of patients who are highly responsive; who have the greatest benefit. We'd like to accelerate the government approval for that agent.''

The clinical trials could show that EP-100 is effective with certain types of cancer, Dr. Gately said. "Perhaps there is a genetic context under which certain patients may be more responsive. We want to find those patients.''

Dr. Hector Alila, president of Esperance, said EP-100 has the potential to offer an improved safety and effectiveness over existing therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy."Preclinical studies of EP-100 demonstrated this candidate's efficacy across multiple indications in oncology, including aggressive cancers known to be resistant to the current standards of care and, importantly, studies of EP-100's mechanism-ofaction
support that it targets and selectively kills cancer cells without harming normal cells," Dr. Alila said.

Community oncologists and cancer researchers collaborate in Phase I clinical trials in the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare in Scottsdale, Ariz. Credit:

Scottsdale Healthcare
Source: Scottsdale Healthcare
Link: http://www.physorg.com/news173973725.html
TV Link: http://www.azfamily.com/news/health/New-drug-designed-to-destroy-several-types-of-cancer-63903727.html 

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Esperance Pharmaceuticals Announces Initiation of Clinical Studies of its Novel Membrane-disrupting Agent, EP-100, in Patients with Cancer

PRNewswire

BATON ROUGE, La.,(September 10, 2009) Drug discovery and development
company Esperance Pharmaceuticals today announced that it has begun enrollment
and dosing of patients in a Phase 1 study of EP-100 in patients with advanced
solid tumors. EP-100, the lead candidate from Esperance's Cationic Lytic
Peptide (CLYP(TM)) platform technology, is a targeted membrane-disrupting
peptide (tMDP) designed to seek and destroy cancer cells that over-express
luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) receptors on their surfaces. LHRH
receptors are over-expressed in a wide range of cancers including breast,
prostate, endometrial, pancreatic, ovarian, skin and testicular cancers.

"We are pleased to have begun human clinical trials of EP-100 as a novel
cancer therapeutic candidate with the potential to offer an improved safety
and efficacy profile over existing therapies such as radiation or
chemotherapy," said Hector Alila, Ph.D., President of Esperance. "Preclinical
studies of EP-100 demonstrated this candidate's efficacy across multiple
indications in oncology, including aggressive cancers known to be resistant to
the current standards of care and, importantly, studies of EP-100's
mechanism-of-action support that it targets and selectively kills cancer cells
without harming normal cells."

The Phase 1 study is a multi-center, open-label, dose escalating study
designed to evaluate the safety, pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic
properties of EP-100. This study will enroll adult patients with solid tumors
that over-express LHRH receptors as determined by tumor biopsy. Up to a total
of 36 patients that are either refractory to the standard of care or for which
no standard of care exists may be enrolled in the study. EP-100 will be
administered intravenously for three out of four weeks. Once the maximum
tolerated dose (MTD) has been established, additional subjects with specific
diagnoses of either breast, ovarian, endometrial, pancreatic or prostate
cancer will be enrolled and dosed at the MTD. Additionally, patients with
other types of cancer may be added based on activity observed in previous
cohorts. More information on the trial can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov.

Results from preclinical studies of EP-100 have shown that the drug regresses
established tumors in breast, prostate, ovarian and endometrial cancer
xenografts in mice. The results in ovarian cancer were presented at the 2009
American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting. In in vivo
studies, the efficacy of EP-100 in comparison to saline or untargeted
membrane-disrupting peptide or cisplatinum was studied in an ovarian cancer
xenograft model (OVCAR-3). EP-100 regressed established OVCAR-3 xenografts
following weekly injections at doses as low as 0.2 mg/kg bodyweight (p<0.03
vs. baseline). In comparison, tumor growth was observed across the saline
control, untargeted membrane-disrupting peptide and cisplatinum arms. In
addition, in the EP-100 arm tumor volumes, weights and CA125 (a clinical
biomarker for ovarian cancer) were reduced. LHRH receptor levels were also
reduced and PET imaging revealed that EP-100 treated tumors became necrotic,
lacking viable tumor cells after treatment. EP-100 was well tolerated in all
treated groups.

Esperance is using its CLYP(TM) technology to develop a robust portfolio of
novel tMDPs to selectively destroy cancer cells that express target receptors.
In addition to EP-100, Esperance has other drug candidates in preclinical
stages, all of which have a unique targeting mechanism of action whereby
candidates bind specifically and exclusively to surface receptors on cancer
cells.

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Contraflow

By Steve Clark
Baton Rouge Business Report

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hector Alila moved to Baton Rouge in September 2007 to become president of Esperance Pharmaceuticals, a startup company developing drugs to treat cancer. A Cornell University graduate and pharmaceutical industry veteran, his colleagues were skeptical over his decision to leave Pennsylvania, his home for many years, to move to the South.

He was attracted to the city by the firm’s promising technology and the chance to make money from it, but also the chance to “make a difference.”

“If you live outside of Louisiana, the national news about Louisiana is not that great,” Alila says. “I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised since then.”

Alila says he eventually discovered some of the less tangible reasons for living here—neighbors, for instance. In Philadelphia, he never got to know them, even after 10 years in the same place. Not so in Baton Rouge. Alila was dumbfounded when his College Town neighbors came by after Hurricane Gustav to make sure he was OK, and says it made him “feel part of the community.”

Baton Rouge worries a lot about how to attract smart, talented people—and keep the ones we’ve already got. But to Alila, Baton Rouge is a “hidden jewel” in many ways. It’s a much less expensive place to do high-tech business than the Northeast, he says.

LSU and the state’s other universities, meanwhile, are ready sources of skilled manpower. More than half of Esperance’s seven employees are LSU graduates.

That said, there are shortcomings. For people with school-age children [Alila’s are grown] taking a look at Baton Rouge, the state of public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish would be of concern—private school alternatives notwithstanding, Alila says.

“There’s still a lot of infrastructure to be dealt with in terms of human capital as well as financial capital” Alila says. “In the long term, it is really worth it. I wish that there were more than one Esperance here. I wish there were other opportunities for that.”

 

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Beyond Plows, Sows and Cows

By Steve Clark
Baton Rouge Business Report

Monday, May 18, 2009

David Boethel has become pretty good at predicting the outcome of LSU’s football bowl games, though his methods are unusual.

At the LSU AgCenter’s annual conferences, Boethel, the center’s vice chancellor for research, always includes in his presentation a comparison of intellectual-property royalties generated per research dollar spent against the peer enterprises of whichever school the Tigers are playing in that postseason.

Lately, LSU has been whipping those schools in royalties, too.

“I’ve been able to predict the winner the last three years,” says Boethel, the director of the Louisiana Agricultural and Experiment Station. “We had Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Notre Dame, and we beat all of them in terms of these kind of statistics.”

In terms of bang for the buck, the LSU AgCenter outperforms several universities in U.S. News & World Report’s top tier.

“That’s not to say that you can do it every year,” Boethel says. “You have up years and down years, but we’ve been pretty consistent the last few years.”

If MIT fielded a team, LSU would have them beat as well. Their research budgets are nowhere close—$63 million in 2007 for the AgCenter versus $1.2 billion for MIT. But in terms of royalty income per dollar spent, LSU wins, with a 6.8% return on its investment compared to 5% for MIT.

The AgCenter doesn’t always get its due as an economic driver, despite its success generating royalties, patents and licenses.

Blame the “plows, sows and cows” stigma, Chancellor Bill Richardson says. But royalties are royalties. The AgCenter’s rice research, for instance, has generated tens of millions of dollars in additional research funding in fees agricultural companies pay the AgCenter for developing improved varieties.

Only about 25% of the AgCenter’s rice station budget comes from state funding. The rest comes from self-generated grants and contracts with those companies.

“Some of the technologies are kind of traditional ag technologies such as variety development—rice varieties and wheat varieties and cotton varieties,” Richardson says. “That’s the traditional thing that land-grant agriculture programs have been focused on, but they’ve been very instrumental in increasing economic development.”

Richardson says his campus, over the past few years, has generated between 85% and 90% of the royalty income coming into the entire LSU System. Of course, ag school research tends to focus more on applied science, though LSU has been particularly aggressive in recent years.

The AgCenter has had its own IP office since 1991, the same year it issued its first patent and many years before LSU’s main campus upgraded what was essentially a one-man operation to the more robust technology transfer/intellectual property program it operates today under Brooks Keel, LSU vice chancellor for research and economic development.

“Our research is probably much more applied than you might find on the [main] campus,” Boethel says. “We always tell our scientists we want you to do some discovery work, but we want that discovery work to have an end focus on a product, or at least some new information that can be adopted by our clientele or our stakeholders.”

About 40 of the AgCenter’s scientists—roughly 10% of the research faculty—hold either a patent or something called a plant variety protection—basically a patent for plants.

Richardson notes that ideas have shifted substantially in terms of IP and agriculture at LSU. In the old days, everything was funded by state dollars and so you gave your research away. It was the land-grant way. But things began to change beginning in the 1990s with tighter budgets.

“When I first came here in 1984, there was almost a negative attitude toward getting federal research dollars,” Richardson says. “The feeling was, ‘The taxpayers pay our salaries, we’re going to do what’s best for the taxpayers and we’re not going to go off to Washington chasing dollars.’ That was a pretty strong feeling at one time.

“I know some faculty members who really got chastised if they applied for money federally. That’s changed dramatically. That’s been a huge change in philosophy. Now we’re out aggressively marketing these technologies.”

Not all of them involve the plow, the sow or the cow. Boethel points to a partnership with Esperance Pharmaceuticals and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center on a project that began with AgCenter scientists looking for a nonsurgical method of creating temporary sterility in show animals.

Adam Knapp, CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, says that federal reporting on IP royalties, licenses and patents lumps LSU’s AgCenter in with Pennington and the main campus obscures the level of the AgCenter’s productivity. He cites Esperance and TransGenRx, both startups housed in the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center on LSU’s main campus, as successful spin-offs from AgCenter-generated research. LETC, as well as the Louisiana Fund One venture capital fund, have been integral to those companies’ success today, he says.

“The point is that they are already leading the state’s education institutions in terms of commercialization of research,” Knapp says. “I think it’s important for more people to be aware of what they’ve accomplished. I think what’s critical is to understand that what they have been good at, that commercialization of intellectual property, is the most direct way to create economic growth from research. In that sense, they are the models for the state.”

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Pharmaceutical Firm Announces Opening of Headquarters

by Steve Clark
Baton Rouge Business Report

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Esperance Pharmaceuticals Inc., the state's first biotech company, which began as a startup in the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center on the LSU campus, today announced the opening of its corporate headquarters and labs in LETC. Esperance, which focuses on the discovery and development of anticancer agents, was founded on patented technology discovered by scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU AgCenter and LSU's flagship campus. Hector Alila, Esperance president and founder, says the company's platform technology is a huge advance with great potential for developing more potent and safer drugs that target cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Research so far has been promising. Esperance was initially set up as Louisiana Fund I LP, an early stage venture capital fund. Co-investors are Themelios Venture Partners LP of Shreveport and Research Corporation Technologies Inc. of Tucson, Ariz.

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Start-Up Gets Funding For Anti-Cancer Drug Research

Baton Rouge Business Report

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Baton Rouge start-up, Esperance Pharmaceuticals Inc., has secured $9 million in financing to begin clinical testing of its anti-cancer agents. The company is developing an anti-cancer 'fusion protein' that is toxic to cancer cells. Esperance was founded by Louisiana Fund 1 on technology discovered at LSU, the AgCenter and Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Louisiana Fund 1, Themelios Venture Partners of Shreveport and Research Corporation Technologies Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., are the lead investors.

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B.R. Biotech Firm Starts Clinical Studies on Cancer Drug

Baton Rouge Business Report

BATON ROUGE, LA (September 10, 2009) – Esperance Pharmaceuticals has started Phase 1 clinical studies of a drug designed to seek and destroy cancer cells. The Baton Rouge-based biotech firm is testing EP-100 in patients with advanced solid tumors. Preclinical studies have shown the drug selectively kills cancer cells without hurting healthy tissue, says Hector Alila, Esperance president and founder. The trial targets patients with breast, ovarian, endometrial, pancreatic or prostate cancer; preclinical studies show the drug reduced established tumors in mice.

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First Candidate from Esperance’s Targeted Anti-cancer Platform, EP-100, Establishes Preclinical Proof of Concept - (PDF version)


Company plans initiation of clinical studies; Data to be presented at AACR

 

By Sarah Cavanaugh
MacDougall Biomedical Communications

Baton Rouge, LA (April 21, 2009) – Drug discovery and development  company Esperance Pharmaceuticals today presented positive results from the Company’s preclinical  program that support the initiation of clinical trials in cancer. EP-100 is the first candidate from the Company’s EP-100 is a targeted membrane-disrupting peptide and is designed to selectively target luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) receptors, which are overexpressed in a wide range of cancers. Results from preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies of EP-100 in ovarian cancer cell lines and ovarian xenograft models were presented in a poster presentation entitled, “Targeted Oncolytic Peptide for Treatment of Ovarian Cancers” at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Denver, CO.

Esperance is using its CLYP™ technology to develop a robust portfolio of small, novel oncolytic peptides to selectively destroy cancer cells that express target receptors. In addition to EP-100, the Company is developing several other drug candidates, all of which have a unique targeting mechanism of action whereby candidates bind specifically and exclusively to cancer cells that express the target receptors on their surfaces. The positively charged peptides disrupt the negatively charged membranes of the cancer cells, causing rapid cell death by lysis.

“These data not only support the continued development of EP-100, but also validate our core membrane-disrupting peptide platform technology,” said Carola Leuschner, PhD, Director of Biology for Esperance and lead author of the study. “Importantly, results of this study demonstrate that this novel mechanism does not harm normal cells, which we believe may lead to an improved safety profile for drugs emerging from this platform compared to existing cancer therapies such as radiation or chemotherapy.”

“Based on the results observed in these studies, Esperance is actively planning the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical trial of EP-100 in patients with solid cancerous tumors later this year,” said Hector Alila, PhD, President of Esperance. “We believe EP-100 and future candidates arising from our platform technology hold significant potential to more effectively treat multiple indications across oncology, including aggressive cancers known to be resistant to the current standards of care.”

Study results:
EP-100 consists of an LHRH receptor-targeting ligand conjugated to a novel membrane-disrupting peptide called CLIP 71. The drug candidate was tested in vitro and in vivo for activity in LHRH receptor over-expressing and multi-drug resistant ovarian cancer cells (OVCAR-3). As a negative control, the study utilized LHRH receptor negative SKOV-3 ovarian cancer cells. In in vitro studies designed to test the cytotoxicity of EP-100 in ovarian cancer cell lines, cells were cultured in the presence of various concentrations of EP-100 or unconjugated CLIP 71 for one to 24 hours. Results demonstrated that EP-100 was fast-acting, destroying LHRH receptor over-expressing OVCAR-3 cells within an hour compared to the unconjugated CLIP 71 which was less cytotoxic and was slow-acting (p<0.005). LHRH receptor negative SKOV-3 cells were significantly less sensitive to EP-100 than OVCAR-3 cells and the effects of EP-100 and unconjugated CLIP 71 were similar in this cell line demonstrating that EP-100 is specific for cells that over-express LHRH receptors.

In in vivo studies, the efficacy of EP-100 in comparison to saline or unconjugated CLIP 71 or cisplatinum in an ovarian cancer xenograft model (OVCAR-3) was studied. EP-100 regressed established OVCAR-3 xenografts in weekly injections at doses as low as 0.2 mg/kg bodyweight (p<0.03 vs. baseline). In comparison, tumor growth was observed across the saline control, unconjugated CLIP 71 and cisplatinum arms. In addition, in the EP-100 arm tumor volumes, weights and CA125 (a clinical biomarker for ovarian cancer) were reduced. LHRH receptor levels were also reduced and PET imaging revealed that EP-100 treated tumors became necrotic, lacking viable tumor cells after treatment. EP-100 was well tolerated in all treated groups.

About Esperance Pharmaceuticals
Esperance Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is developing a new class of targeted anticancer drugs using its Cationic Lytic Peptide (CLYP™) platform technology. These drug candidates, called membrane-disrupting peptides (MDPs), selectively kill cancer cells, including cells known to be resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs, without harming normal cells. Targeting occurs through binding to specific receptors on the cell's surface. The Company was founded on patented technology discovered by scientists at Louisiana State University. Founding investors include the Louisiana Fund I, Themelios Venture Partners and Research Corporation Technologies. Additional investors include Louisiana Technology Fund and private investors.

 

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Cancer drug nears testing - (PDF version)


Local company on fast track to develop new treatment

 

 

 

By TED GRIGGS
Advocate business writer
Published: Apr 25, 2008 - Page: 1A - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.

Baton Rouge-based Esperance Pharmaceuticals Inc. is within 15 to 18 months of testing to see if its targeted anticancer drug is safe for use in people.

Company officials made the announcement Thursday at a ceremony marking the opening of Esperance's headquarters and laboratories in the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center.

We believe this is a major technical advance over what is being developed out there," company President Hector W. Alila said. We are targeting specific molecules on the surface of cancer cells, and so our drug seeks out these cells and kills them."

Everyone who has seen a friend or relative go through cancer treatments says that there must be a better way, Alila said. Patients who go through chemotherapy frequently become nauseous, weak and lose their hair.

Esperance's drugs can destroy both the primary tumors and the cancer that spreads from them, he said.

The technology has the potential to develop more potent and safer drugs that target only cancer cells, leaving normal cells, and the patient, unharmed.

It's fitting that the company's name, Esperance, is French for hope, Alila said.

Esperance was founded on technology discovered and patented by scientists at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the LSU Ag Center and LSU itself.

The company originally received backing from Louisiana Fund I LP of Baton Rouge.

Louisiana Fund I, Shreveport-based Themelios Venture Partners LP and Research Corporation Technologies Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., have provided $9 million in Series A financing for Esperance.

Esperance is using the money to move one of its lead compounds to early clinical testing. Alila said the drug could be in Phase I testing, to see if it can be tolerated by people, within 15 to 18 months.

The Phase I testing will likely start with ovarian cancer, Alila said. The federal Food and Drug Administration considers ovarian cancer an orphan" disease, meaning less than 200,000 people are diagnosed with the illness each year.

Because the potential market for an orphan drug is so small, the FDA offers incentives to developers, such as an accelerated review process, Alila said. Another key piece of Esperance's strategy involves developing, and patenting, a diagnostic system that will help identify the patients who will likely respond to the drug.

This personalized medicine method offers Esperance some major advantages, Alila said. By choosing patients more apt to respond to the drug, Esperance will need fewer patients to prove its product works.

The result is that the company increases its chances for a successful clinical trial while lowering costs, he said. The Phase I trial will probably involve around 50 patients.
Once Esperance goes through the FDA review process, the company will be able to look at other potential applications, Alila said. So far, Esperance's research has shown its drug has the potential to effectively treat breast, endometrial and colon cancers, among others.
Between now and its human trials, Esperance will be testing its treatment in animals, Alila said.

Alila said he appreciates the support the company has gotten locally, from Pennington, LSU and the Ag Center, and the help of technology developer William Hansel and his collaborators Fred Enright and Carola Leuschner.

In addition, Woman's Hospital is providing Esperance with access to screen tissue samples from patients, he said.

Ross Barrett, Themelios managing general partner, said Esperance's cancer treatment will have impacts far beyond Baton Rouge or Louisiana.

This represents an opportunity for Louisiana to be a global thought leader in cancer therapeutics," Barrett said.

Steven Grissom, deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, said Esperance represents a clear signal that the state is taking the right steps in diversifying the economy.

Alila said the most important thing to come from Esperance, aside from the cancer treatment, may be to let the world know that Baton Rouge and Louisiana are good places to establish a biotech company.

The area has workers with the expertise needed, and much lower costs for lab and office space, he said. In Boston, running a company at Esperance's stage might cost $1 million or even $2 million a month.

A million dollars goes like that," Alila said, snapping his fingers. Every time you open the door, that's $40,000."

The costs in Baton Rouge are far less than half of that, he said.

 

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Pet sterilization work led to cancer research - (PDF version)

 

By TED GRIGGS
Advocate business writer
Published: Apr 25, 2008 - Page: 8A

Esperance's cancer drugs, which supporters now believe might revolutionize treatment of the disease, began in the early 1990s as an effort to sterilize pets without surgery.

At the time, scientists William Hansel and Fred Enright hoped to develop a shot that could shut down a dog's reproductive system. The idea was to shut down cells in the pituitary gland that govern male and female reproductive organs.

The problem was the pituitary cells regenerated in a month or so.

So like many great ideas, the initial part of the invention was meant for one thing, but then it evolved into something greater," Esperance President Hector W. Alila said.
Enright is head of veterinary science at the LSU Agriculture Center. Hansel, an animal physiologist, worked jointly with the center and the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

They were soon joined by Carola Leuschner, then a biochemist at Pennington and now a part of the Esperance team.

The researchers realized their approach could be adapted for cancer treatment.
Eventually they developed new molecules that attached to hormone receptors on cancer cells and disrupted the cell membranes.
On Thursday, Hansel jokingly described the research as skunkworks" all the way.
Skunkworks is the work an organization tolerates but does not officially support, fund or even acknowledge it exists, Hansel said.

In fact, an organization doesn't want to admit it has anything to do with the work at all.
How else can one explain the Agriculture Center and Pennington, which focuses on nutrition, justifying cancer research and allowing that work to be done by a cancer research team with no cancer research experience, he asked.

In reality, the administrators at LSU, the center and Pennington deserved a lot of credit for Esperance's success, Hansel said.

The Agriculture Center paid the fees for patenting the process, and Pennington provided office and lab space.

Hansel also credited Gordon Kean, who provided more than $1 million to fund the research, as the real hero in the Esperance story.

 

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First Louisiana Biotech Company Focused on Cancer Announces Opening- (PDF version)

Baton Rouge, LA - April, 24, 2008): Esperance Pharmaceuticals Inc., a new biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing targeted and selective anticancer agents, announced today the opening of its corporate headquarters and laboratories in the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center, located on the LSU campus.
Esperance was founded on a patented technology discovered by scientists at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the LSU Ag Center, and the Louisiana State University A&M campus.

Esperance's platform technology is a major technical advance that has great potential for developing more potent and safer drugs that target cancer cells without harming normal cells," said Hector W. Alila, President and Founder of Esperance Pharmaceuticals. We are focusing on developing a new class of targeted cancer therapies with better efficacy and safety profiles than existing cancer therapies such as radiation or chemotherapy."
Research done at Esperance has shown that these drugs are very effective in targeting and destroying both primary tumors and metastases in animal models of cancer.

Initially structured by Louisiana Fund I LP of Baton Rouge, Esperance has secured a $9 million Series A financing that will help it move one of its lead compounds toward early clinical testing.

Co-lead investors with Louisiana Fund I are Themelios Venture Partners LP (Shreveport, La.) and Research Corporation Technologies Inc. (Tucson, Ariz.)

Louisiana Fund I has followed the development of this technology at LSU and we are very excited about the potential of therapeutic drugs for cancer that may come from this technology, said Joseph F. Lovett, Managing General Partner of Louisiana Fund I. We are delighted to have Esperance located in Baton Rouge. It's also significant that Themelios Venture Partners and Research Corporation Technologies, who are quite experienced at investing in the biomedical area, were eager to invest in a start-up biotech company in Louisiana.

Like most scientific breakthroughs, this technology came about initially as a university laboratory surprise," said Dr. John V. Lombardi, LSU System President. Because of the hard work, innovation and scientific collaboration among LSU researchers, there are great hopes that this novel approach to treating cancer will be successful."

The technology was developed by Dr. William Hansel and his collaborators Drs. Fred Enright and Carola Leuschner.

The Esperance laboratories are located in a large wet-lab suite in the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center (LETC) at the Southeast gate to LSU. LETC is a significant investment by the state to encourage the growth of the biotech industry in Louisiana," said Arthur R. Cooper, CEO of the LSU System Research & Technology Foundation. Esperance's choice to open its labs here in Baton Rouge demonstrates that the state's economic development efforts are working well."

 

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Esperance Pharmaceuticals Closes $9 Million Series A Funding - (PDF version)

 

(BATON ROUGE, La. - Oct. 31, 2006) Esperance Pharmaceuticals Inc., a start-up company developing targeted and selective anticancer agents, has secured a $9 million Series A financing that will help the company move its lead compound toward early clinical testing.

The Louisiana Fund I LP (Baton Rouge, La.) founded Esperance on technology discovered by researchers at Louisiana State University, the LSU AgCenter and the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Co-lead investors with Louisiana Fund I are Themelios Ventures Partners LP (Shreveport, La.) and Research Corporation Technologies Inc. (Tucson, Ariz.).

Esperance is developing a unique, targeted, anticancer fusion protein that is selectively toxic to cancer cells. Targeting occurs through the designed ligand component that binds singular extracellular receptors on the cancer cell. The potent cytolytic peptide portion of the drug kills the cancer cell. Initial experiments in therapeutic animal models of human cancer showed regression of well-established tumors.

Esperance will use the Series A funding to identify a lead compound, establish an assay to select candidate patients and conduct a proof-of-concept study in humans with cancer.
Louisiana Fund I has followed the development of this technology at LSU and we are very excited about the potential of therapeutic drugs for cancer that may come from this technology," said Joseph F. Lovett, managing general partner of Louisiana Fund I. We are delighted to have Esperance located in Baton Rouge. Also, we are looking forward to working with Themelios Venture Partners and Research Corporation Technologies, who are quite experienced at investing in the biomedical area."

Like most scientific breakthroughs, this technology came about initially as a laboratory surprise," said Ross P. Barrett, managing partner of Themelios Venture Partners. Because of the hard work, innovation and scientific collaboration throughout the LSU System of researchers, we feel there is great potential in this novel approach to treating cancer."
This technology, if successful, holds the potential of one day relieving the suffering of millions of cancer victims, said Dr. William L. Jenkins, president of the LSU System. The promise of anticancer treatments based on this research is both dazzling and exciting for our scientists and the entire LSU community."

As part of the financing, Lovett, Barrett and RCT's Chad Souvignier, Ph.D., join the Esperance board of directors.

The Louisiana Fund I is an early-stage venture capital fund focused on the identification of investment opportunities emanating from research universities and other organizations in the state of Louisiana. LFI targets companies developing commercially promising technologies with an emphasis on those originating in Louisiana universities, Louisiana companies and companies relocating to Louisiana. Areas of interest include pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, agritechnology, information technology and other high technology opportunities that offer venture capital returns.

Themelios Venture Partners is one of two investment funds managed by VCE Capital Partners LLC (www.vcecapital.com), a Southeast U.S.-based venture capital firm that provides equity capital to early- and expansion-stage companies with proprietary technology platforms or unique products addressing large markets. TVP invests in both life sciences technologies originating from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, and in companies outside of the Pennington Center that run clinical trials or conduct research collaborations with the center.

Research Corporation Technologies is a technology investment and management company that provides early-stage funding and development for promising biomedical companies and technologies. RCT focuses on technology investments with origins from universities and research institutions worldwide. RCT has assets of more than $300 million to advance technology development through venture investment, partnerships and special licensing programs. The RCT BioVentures program provides venture capital to companies whose technologies have the potential to become significant biomedical products.

 

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