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Stony Brook drug startup snags $500,000 in funding

Joseph Scaduto, CEO of Traverse Biosciences, says the

Joseph Scaduto, CEO of Traverse Biosciences, says the company has closed on a $500,000 funding round in an effort to commercialize chemically modified versions of curcumin to treat inflammatory diseases and cancers affecting humans and animals. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Traverse Biosciences Inc., a 3-year-old Stony Brook drug-discovery startup, reports it has closed on a $500,000 funding round led by Excell Partners, an early-stage venture-capital fund based in Rochester.

Traverse is seeking to commercialize chemically modified versions of curcumin — one of the main components of the yellow Indian spice turmeric — to treat inflammatory diseases and cancers affecting humans and animals.

Joseph Scaduto, founder and chief executive of Traverse, said Monday that about a dozen angel investors — almost exclusively from Long Island — also joined in the convertible debt funding round, along with the Research Foundation for the State University of New York.

The company, which acquired rights to intellectual property developed at Stony Brook University, initially focused on developing drugs to treat gum disease in dogs, cats and other pets. About four out of five dogs have periodontal disease by age 3, according to Traverse.

In May 2015, Traverse secured a cooperative research and development agreement worth $250,000 with Aratana Therapeutics Inc., a Leawood, Kansas-based developer of animal health drugs.

Under that agreement, Traverse could be eligible for up to $8.25 million in up-front and milestone payments as well as royalties should Aratana sublicense and market a compound under study known as TRB-NO224.

Scaduto said once Traverse is able “to gain some credibility” by developing an animal health drug, the company plans to “pivot” toward the more costly research of human inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Traverse could conduct preclinical nonhuman trials and perhaps the first phase of human trials, he said, but ultimately would have to partner with a deep-pocketed pharmaceutical company for advanced trials.

“We fully anticipate that Traverse Biosciences will continue to aggressively pursue technical and regulatory milestones that add commercial value to its product portfolio applicable to both animal and human health,” Theresa Mazzullo, chief executive of Excell Partners, said in a statement.

Traverse is based at the Long Island High Technology Incubator at Stony Brook. The company arose out of Scaduto’s stint as bioentrepreneur-in-residence at the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University, when he pored through potential drug candidates generated by university researchers.

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