Entrepreneur Spotlight: John Kaiser, Evecxcia

CED recently spoke with CEO John Kaiser of Evecxia Therapeutics to learn more about its mission to assist people with mental illness. Read on to learn more about this Research Triangle Park-based company and how their research is aimed at the two-thirds of mental illness patients who do not adequately respond to traditional antidepressants.

What does Evecxcia do?

Started as a spin-out from Duke University, Evecxia Therapeutics is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on helping people with disabling mental illness lead fuller, more meaningful lives. Our company is developing a new class of drugs

based on 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) as the active compound. 5-HTP has shown therapeutic promise across multiple indications; but, poor pharmacokinetics makes native 5-HTP undruggable. Deploying unique know-how, combinations with other compounds, and proven drug delivery technologies to remedy the shortcomings of 5-HTP as therapeutic for both inpatient and outpatient use. Evecxia is the first company dedicated to realizing the therapeutic potential of 5-HTP via specialty Rx formulation drugs.

What problem does Evecxia solve?

Evecxia’s first drug candidate, EVX-101, is an oral slow-release drug of 5-HTP and low-dose carbidopa (absorption enhancer). EVX-101’s initial indication is as an adjunctive therapy to enhance the therapeutic effectiveness of first-line antidepressants, such as Prozac and Cymbalta, representing an unmet need of ~6.0 million patients in the US alone.

Evecxia’s second drug candidate, EVX-301, is a 24-hour intravenous infusion of 5-HTP to treat patients in suicidal crisis. With 50,000 yearly deaths and over 1 million attempts, suicide

has reached epidemic levels in the US and other parts of the globe. EVX-101 and EVX-301 are both in clinical development and both are protected by dominant issued and pending IP.

We are developing novel proprietary drug delivery technologies that enable the therapeutic properties of 5-HTP. Evecxia’s 5-HTP-based drugs will be the first drug class to amplify the production of natural brain serotonin to treat mental illnesses.

Tell us about the Evecxia team?

Before joining Evecxia as CEO, I gained valuable industry experience, including serving as CEO of Cerecor, co-founder and CEO of Denysias Bioscience, and Vice President of Commercial & Corporate Development at ACADIA Pharmaceuticals.  Co-founder and CSO Jacob Jacobsen, Ph.D., brings a wealth of drug development experience from NeuroSearch, Lundbeck, and Duke.

Our team also includes Jennifer Hart, executive director of clinical operations, and numerous expert consultants in all aspects of CNS drug development and CMC with a combined 150 years of experience. Serving with me on the board of directors is Dr. Jacobsen, David Zaccardelli, PharmD (United Therapeutics, Dova, Verona), and Tom Aasen, CPA (ACADIA Pharmaceuticals).

How can CED and the startup ecosystem help Evecxia?

When I think about how CED can help, I think about conversations. Conversations initiated through quality introductions to institutional investors, a launchpad to mingle with other entrepreneurs, and access to peers who are having the same conversations we’re having internally, thus providing a more extensive network than one we’d have on our own.

What are your Evecxia’s upcoming milestones?

Evecxia Therapeutics is raising a $20mm Series B financing to establish Phase 2a proof-of-concept for EVX-301 in patients with suicidality, Phase 1 safety for EVX-101 in healthy volunteers, and for general working capital, including plans to explore public markets within two years.

Does your company anticipate scaling soon? CED is here to help entrepreneurs along every step of their company’s journey. From access to capital, mentoring, pitch practice, and access to peers.

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