Meritage Pharma Inc.
This article was originally published in Start Up
Meritage Pharma was built by serial biotech entrepreneur Cam Garner around a viscous formulation of budesonide designed to coat the inflamed throat. It is now in Phase II trials for an orphan indication, pediatric eosinophilic esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus that appears to be triggered by allergies. Meritage's decision to reformulate a compound with a well-established safety record is, like the choice to pursue an orphan drug designation, a risk- and cost-reducing maneuver that has helped other biotech companies achieve success.
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A preview of the emerging health care companies profiled in the current issue of Start-Up. This month's profile group, "Biotechs Target the GI Tract," features profiles of Alvine Pharmaceuticals, Genetic Analysis, Meritage Pharma and Ventrus Biosciences. Plus these Start-Ups Across Health Care: Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics, Concert Pharmaceuticals, ImThera Medical, On-Q-ity and Telormedix.
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Alvine Pharmaceuticals aims to treat celiac disease-a common hereditary autoimmune disorder in which the intestinal lining reacts to wheat, barley or rye gluten, leading to pain, bloating, and damage to the gut--with an orally available drug meant to degrade gluten in the stomach into peptide fragments too small to stimulate an immune response. Generally, antigens need to be at least nine amino acids long to rouse an immune response, but Alvine expects its lead compound to chop up gluten into peptide fragments a third that size or smaller.