Biotech start-up targeting heart disease wins UCD Start-up of the Year Award

Posted November 17, 2016

  • EpiCor Therapeutics wins award and €20,000 prize
  • Aims to target significant cause of sudden cardiac death

Biotech start-up EpiCor Therapeutics has won the UCD Start-Up of the Year Award 2016. It received the award and €20,000 prize as the overall winner of the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme.

The start-up is aiming to develop a treatment for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), a significant cause of sudden cardiac death.

EpiCor Therapeutics is currently focused on repurposing an existing drug, 5-azacytidine, for the treatment of HOCM. It will also investigate the use of biomarkers to deliver targeted treatment for individuals.

In the US alone, HOCM currently affects around 175,000 people with associated annual healthcare costs amounting to over $1 billion.

EpiCor Therapeutics was founded by Dr John Baugh, Dr Nadia Glezeva, Dr Chris Watson, Dr Mark Ledwidge and Professor Ken McDonald, all of UCD School of Medicine.

“It is an honour for EpiCor Therapeutics to win the 2016 UCD Start-up of the Year Award,” said Dr John Baugh. “It is a great endorsement for us going forward as we work to develop treatments to target a variety of heart diseases, including our initial focus on hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.”

Pictured (l-r): EpiCor Therapeutics co-founders Dr Chris Watson, Dr Nadia Glezeva and Dr John Baugh. Credit: Nick Bradshaw, Fotonic

HOCM is a disease in which a portion of the heart muscle is enlarged without any obvious cause resulting in impairment of the heart. Debilitating symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations.

The disease has no approved disease-modifying therapeutics, is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death of individuals in any age group and a leading cause of such death in young athletes. 

EpiCor Therapeutics is now seeking to raise €750,000 in seed funding to enable pre-clinical bridging studies. Following additional fund raising, it plans to proceed with a clinical proof-of-concept study to support its approval as a treatment for HOCM.

UCD’s annual VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme aims to support and accelerate the launch of sustainable and profitable new ventures based on intellectual property emerging from the university. Participants are expected to have a commercially viable business plan on completion of the programme.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations, with materials provided by NovaUCD