Making a Difference for Patients
By: Colorado BioScience Association Date: 04/30/2018
Meet the Colorado Leaders Developing Breakthrough Cures and Treatments
Colorado’s researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs work to develop breakthroughs start locally and impact globally. Our sector’s creativity, collaboration and risk-taking spirit reflect our state’s values.
More than 720 bioscience companies call Colorado home, and employ more than 30,000 Coloradans.
We profile four companies that represent the great work happening here:
SomaLogic – Boulder
SomaLogic founder Larry Gold, Ph.D., and his vision of highly personalized medicine attracted Sherri Wilcox, Ph.D. and Jennifer Bertino to Boulder’s SomaLogic.
Wilcox, now the Senior Director of Discovery Sciences for Boulder-based SomaLogic, oversees a team of scientists responsible for developing the molecules, called SOMAmer reagents, that grab onto specific proteins in human blood or urine, so that they can be evaluated in light of that person’s current health status. They have developed reagents that bind to more than 5,000 different proteins.
Bertino is the company’s Senior Director of Portfolio and Project Management. She moved from upstate New York in 1996 to work in Colorado’s biotech industry.
Both employees said they enjoy the best of both worlds: developing a technology that they believe in and living in a state they love.
“I think everyone in this sector likes to keep the pulse of what other companies are doing, to stay engaged in the latest technologies and innovations and also to keep tabs on talent movement and availability,” said Bertino. “People maintain strong networks of colleagues.”
Wilcox says Colorado companies tend to support each other because most are not in strong direct competition.
“We each have our own niche and that helps us work together,” said Wilcox.
“The lifestyle here is so attractive that the folks who come here to work in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry end up staying,” said Bertino.
Sheri Wilcox, Ph.D., Senior Director of Discovery Services and Jennifer Bertino, Senior Director of Portfolio and Project Management
miRagen – Boulder
Colorado’s flourishing bioscience sector is the ideal home for miRagen.
miRagen develops cutting-edge drugs that not only treat the disease but the network of cellular processes that contribute to a disease and its symptoms. Cancer, for example, is a proliferation of abnormal cells growing out of control. Conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy, kill the cells. But miRagen is working on microRNA-based therapeutics that target the molecular pathways that drive cell growth in the first place.
MicroRNAs were once thought to be junk DNA. But now scientists know the molecules are vital to gene regulation. Each microRNA can influence the expression of many genes at once and regulate entire biological pathways. That means modulating a single microRNA—increasing its level or decreasing its activity—can, for example, regulate cell growth, while at the same time reduce inflammation.
“It’s like giving a combo therapy in a single molecule,” said Paul Rubin, Executive Vice President of Research and Development at miRagen.
The team CEO Bill Marshall, Ph.D., built has grown quickly from 20 employees to more than 60. They focus on therapies to treat diseases of the heart, those implicated in blood-based cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, pathologic scaring of the skin, lung, liver and eyes, and neurological degenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“We’ve created a culture here that’s driven by teamwork and collaboration and trying to do something that changes people’s lives,” said Marshall.
Silvergate Pharmaceuticals – Greenwood Village
As a pharmacist managing some of the largest consumer pharmacies in the country, Frank Segrave saw a need.
The majority of medications on his shelves—most of them in tablet or capsule form—were proportioned for adult dosages. To fill a prescription for a child, Segrave had to do what all pharmacists did: crush up the adult pills and mix them with a liquid to create a drinkable medicine. Creating precise formulas for children ranging in age and size from tiny newborn babies to growing teens can be challenging.
After some research, he found that the need for medications formulated specifically for children was bigger than he thought. “There are hundreds of thousands of kids getting millions of doses prepared manually on a daily basis,” said Segrave.
Segrave launched Silvergate Pharmaceuticals, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., in 2010. It was the first company of its kind to develop and commercialize medications dosed for children. The company has three FDA-approved drugs on the market, with five more in development. Segrave said the reactions from doctors, pharmacists and parents have been incredibly positive and the company’s success is prompting more startups to enter the market.
The Silvergate Pharmaceuticals team now numbers 45. Segrave said he feels fortunate that he was able to find a group of people that had the same passion he did. “If you walk around our office today, you’ll hear people saying, “It’s all about the kids. It’s all about the kids. It’s all about the kids,” he said. “It helps us keep our focus.”
RxRevu – Denver
In the center of Denver’s construction chorus—a sign of the city’s recent economic boom—CEO Carm Huntress, and his team at RxRevu have their own renovation project underway. They want to overhaul how healthcare providers prescribe medication. Their digital health solution streamlines medication choice, reduces unintended drug interactions, surfaces lower cost alternatives and improves patient care by giving doctors the most up-to-date information available to prescribe the most effective, clinically appropriate medication.
“We help providers make more informed prescription decisions by bringing data, analytics and other information to the point-of-care,” said Huntress.
RxRevu’s platform optimizes prescription decision making by sorting through real-time medication data such as cost, effectiveness, side effects, benefit data and drug interactions and then produces a list of medications covered by the patient’s health insurance directly in the patient’s electronic health record. It suggests medications to the doctor, who can then make a choice based on best practices.
“It’s a single click into the tool, they see the recommendations, then it’s a single click to order a prescription,” said Huntress, highlighting the user experience of never leaving the standard workflow to access this Prescription Decision Support (the company’s trademarked technology).
Huntress said it’s a great time to be launching a new healthcare business in Colorado, a major innovation hub in digital health, where more than 130 companies work at the intersection of technology and healthcare.
“We’ve also seen a significant influx of highly educated individuals move into the area due to the lower cost of living and quality of life, which has helped us build an amazing, dedicated team at RxRevu,” said Huntress.
Colorado BioScience Association proudly serves as the hub for our state’s thriving bioscience industry, representing thriving young companies to established corporations and institutions. Our member companies include: biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic, ag bio and mobile digital health companies, research and academic institutions and service providers.
Read more about our industry in a recent Denver Post article, “Researchers are hacking the human body in Colorado labs, from alcohol-sensing bracelets to color-changing diagnostic tattoos”