By: Andrew A. Radin
CEO& Co-founder, Aria Pharmaceuticals
Since we have now rebranded twoXAR Pharmaceuticals as Aria Pharmaceuticals, I’m often asked “Why that name?” The dictionary defines the word “aria” as a long musical piece typically written for a solo voice with orchestral accompaniment in an opera, a theatrical work which combines drama, music, song and dance. You might be wondering, what does drug discovery and development have to do with opera?
Pharmaceutical R&D and opera have much in common. Both are complex operations requiring artistry and rigorous discipline. And both rely on collaborations of very gifted, talented people. In the case of opera, the singers, musicians and dancers all have to be working together on the same page for the performance to come out right. With pharma, it’s also expert teamwork that results in the discovery of a novel new medicine and its journey through pre-clinical and clinical studies to FDA approval.
The name Aria reflects the artistry and complexity that define how our company and scientific teams approach medicine, from discovery to FDA approval, in a way that is scientifically sound.
We launched the company as twoXAR with a focus on discovering and bringing first-in-class molecules to market. We initially decided to collaborate, pairing our discovery platform with pharmaceutical development companies such as Santen Pharmaceutical, Ono Pharmaceutical and SK Biopharmaceuticals, finding novel small molecules and moving them into pre-clinical studies.
While that mission has not changed, over the last few years we have made accelerated progress against it. We have significantly advanced our own pipeline with very promising early data and brought on a team of top pharmaceutical R&D talent, changing the trajectory of the company and how we approach the mission at hand. All of this with less than 20 people and a modest $14 Million in funding.
As a result, we are now transitioning from discovery collaborations with pharmaceutical companies to advancing our own pipeline into clinical research. We will be starting with novel preclinical compounds targeting fibrotic and immunological diseases, specifically IND-enabling studies for novel candidates in chronic kidney disease, lupus and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Importantly, we have also refined and innovated the drug discovery approach with a proprietary platform. What we do is make predictions using real world data, and we examine that data to better understand complex disease. We discover new biology and ultimately new medications that have never been pursued in a disease area. And we do it faster, at a lower cost, and with greater success than the traditional drug discovery and development process.
It’s fair to say that the last few years have had a dramatic theme to them. Our R&D approach has been proven to produce a 30-fold increase in hit rates at in vivo efficacy milestones over traditional methods, saving years of drug development in the process. To date, we have identified 18 potential novel treatment candidates for complex and challenging diseases including lupus, glioblastoma, chronic kidney disease and glaucoma. Aria has announced positive preclinical safety and efficacy data in seven of those candidates with an average timing to complete predictions, select hits and begin in vivo testing of four weeks, significantly faster than traditional drug discovery methods which take years to reach similar milestones.
An aria is typically an elaborate, sophisticated capstone in an opera reserved for a very talented performer. But it doesn’t stand alone, it works within the context of a larger piece of music. The “Aria” in our case is our drug discovery platform, exceptionally gifted in its own right but even more powerful when coupled with the right team and expertise. And our company along with the researchers we work with are the opera, the remarkably talented team that makes the aria so successful. Just as an aria boldly advances the plot, we are dedicated to advancing bold breakthroughs in medicine. And taking the bold step of transitioning from a partnership strategy to a focus on growing and enriching our own pipeline.
Our goal as a pharmaceutical company is to discover and validate first-in-class small molecules in complex and hard-to-treat diseases, areas of high unmet medical need, and move them through pre-clinical and clinical studies toward approval with scientific rigor at unprecedented speed. Our platform has shown promise across a diverse range of therapeutic areas with the ability to address over 1,000 diseases, 300 of which we have already created computational models against.
That’s a lot of diseases, but Aria Pharmaceuticals is committed to finding and rapidly bringing to market the breakthrough therapies that are so desperately needed by patients living with these challenging and complicated disorders. We’re very much in the middle of this grand opera known as drug discovery and development and we are fully committed to the science and rigor required to advance the plot.