RNS60, a drug designed to treat inflammatory diseases like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), was recently granted orphan status by the FDA, designating Revalesio’s lead clinical pharmaceutical drug as a safe and effective treatment for such rare diseases. The orphan drug designation program provides incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop products to treat rare diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. The Tacoma Economic Development Board reports that the drug is now being evaluated in a pilot study at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Clinical Centers in Italy as well as MGH are conducting a larger study on the effect of RNS60 on biomarkers of the disease.
In 2014, Revalesio capped off a $40 million round of funding driven partly by the viral ice bucket challenge that helped raise awareness about ALS leading to major breakthroughs like RNS60. Orphan status will increase access to the FDA which can help facilitate a drug development plan. It is estimated that 30,000 people in the U.S live with ALS among 450,000 worldwide.
Jesse Thomas, Revalesio’s Business Development Officer, told Geekwire that Tacoma’s connection with “the University of Washington, Joint Base Lewis-McCord and local health care providers”, made Pierce County a “unique” area to do business.
This past September, Tacoma saw the grand opening of Readiness Acceleration and Innovation Network (RAIN), a new biotech nonprofit hub and first of its kind for the city, organized to provide startups with significant support for ideation, research and development, prototyping, business development, and launch. RAIN exists in collaboration with the University of Washington-Tacoma, MultiCare Health System and Madigan Army Medical Center. CEO of RAIN and UW Tacoma affiliate professor, David Hirschberg, emphasized the need to create high-paying jobs in Tacoma. At RAIN, there are opportunities for entrepreneurs, researchers, full-fledged companies, startups and students to access the space.