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Brandeis alumni named to scientific advisory board for biotech company

David Housman ’66, PhD ’71 was named to a scientific advisory board for a biotechnology company—Thiogenesis Therapeutics Corp. (TSXV: TTI), according to a recent publication. The company’s main goal is focused on “developing proprietary thiol-active therapeutic compounds to treat unmet medical needs,” according to the company’s corporate overview

The members of the Scientific Advisory Board “are acclaimed leaders in their fields and will provide strategic guidance utilizing their vast experience to support the successful clinical and commercial development of Thiogenesis’ proprietary, novel thiol-active compounds,” according to a Stockwatch article on the biotechnology company. 

Scientific advisory boards are used for biotechnology companies in order to provide an objective for the company with an external perspective, according to a Forbes article. Scientific advisor boards, according to the article, also offer authentication of quality through constructive criticism and problem-solving strategies. 

The board is also typically responsible for helping raise the profile and awareness of the company, according to the article. TSXV: TTI is in the clinical-stage meaning that it has a product that has been tested on humans in a clinical trial setting, according to a Law Insider article

Housman is one of three members elected to the company’s scientific advisory board. His peers on the board include Gregory Enns, a professor at Stanford University in the Division of Medical Genetics, and Miriam Vos, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine in the Pediatrics and Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Department, according to the article

Thiogenesis Therapeutics is a public company “developing thiol-active therapeutic compounds to treat unmet medical needs,” according to their corporate overview. In the overview summary of the company, the focus is on proprietary compounds to address potential obstacles that limit the development of thiol-based therapeutics. The research is specifically targeting the short half-lives and side effects, according to the corporate overview. The lead compound the company uses is TTI-0102—a drug leading to cysteamine, a cystine reducer that can prevent the buildup of cystine crystals.

In the first phase of their trials, the drug “demonstrated that it is well-tolerated with potential for dosing once-a-day,” according to the corporate overview. The company has a main focus on meeting the medical needs that currently go unmet for pediatric patients, according to their page. The focus of the human efficacy trials is for mitochondrial diseases and Rett Syndrome—a neurodevelopmental disorder, according to the corporate overview. The company noted that “there is no cure for [Rett Syndrome], the main therapies available are for the treatment of symptoms and they are limited.” 

The company is focused on cysteamine because it is “one of the most promising thiols as a therapeutic, it occurs in low concentrations endogenously, as a therapeutic it must be administered in increased dosages in the form of a synthetic drug,” according to their PowerPoint. The lead compound being used is TTI-0102 which is composed of cysteamine and pantetheine, according to the company’s PowerPoint. There is a naturally occurring process, according to the page, which can transform pantetheine into cysteamine. During conversion, “the levels of cysteamine are intended to meet minimum therapeutic levels and be maintained for an extended duration, without exhibiting strong side effects,” according to the report. The company reported that patients experience some side effects of cysteamine including nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, halitosis, body odor and skin rashes. 

The company received its primary patent—US 11,173,135—on Nov. 16, 2021. The patent allows for the company to test the “treatment of cysteamine sensitive disorders defined as a disease for which there is evidence that cysteamine can be an effective treatment,” according to the corporate overview. 

Housman is currently a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the biology department, according to his faculty page. His main focus is on studying the underlying biological pathways of various diseases, including Huntington’s Disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to the page. Housman is a geneticist; notably, Housman was a part of the discovery of the HTYT gene which causes Huntington’s disease, according to his Wikipedia page.

Housman has received multiple awards for his work, including becoming a National Academy of Medicine Member in 1997 and a National Academy of Sciences Member in 1994, according to his faculty page. He has also been featured in many publications that look at the molecular components of disease, according to his faculty page.

Housman is also head of a lab at MIT, called the Housman Lab. In the lab, the researchers implement genetic approaches to looking at the mechanisms of human disease pathways. Using this technique they attempt to identify effective intervention strategies that can be implemented to understand and treat human diseases. 

Housman received his undergraduate degree from Brandeis in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He received his Ph.D. from Brandeis in 1971, according to his MIT faculty page.

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