Chris interviews the leaders of Coya Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company based in Houston revolutionizing the push for effective neurodegenerative disease therapies. Coya went public with only five team members after working with world-renowned researcher and neurologist Stanley Appel to commercialize new therapies for neurological diseases in order to make them publically available. Dr. Howard Berman, the Founder and CEO of Coya, and Daniel Barvin, the Vice President of Operations and Patient Advocacy share the background of the company and where it’s heading.
[00:00] Start of Episode
[01:00] Background of Coya
[10:45] How the diseases are currently being treated
[15:50] Current progress of ALS and Alzheimer’s therapy development
[16:10] Process of IPO’ing and getting FDA approved
[24:38] How a biologic therapy is manufactured
[26:16] Being a med tech or bio company in Houston’s ecosystem
Howard’s story in starting Coya therapeutics
Howard says that he took his father in to see Dr. Stanley Appel after he had been diagnosed with dementia. Dr. Appel said that Howard’s father’s dementia was progressive but mentioned that he’d been working on a project in the lab and wanted to meet with Howard again. With Howard’s background in pharmaceuticals, he saw that Dr. Appel’s research was showing remarkable results. Soon after, the two agreed to work together and launched Coya.
“He said, Howard, look, you know how to raise money, you know how to commercialize drugs, do you want to do this with me? And I went back to my wife, it didn't take very long, I came back to him the next day. And I said, absolutely. So we launched Coya.”
Daniel’s role and getting involved with Coya
After losing his aunt, uncle, and father to Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Daniel changed his direction from a finance job and formed the nonprofit End the Legacy to focus on education and awareness in the neurodegenerative disease community. After having a “serendipitous” meeting with Howard, Daniel joined Coya Therapeutics soon after to make a difference in the community. Carrying the genetic risk of FTD himself, Daniel wants to make an impact in the therapeutic arena for generations to come.
“Shortly after the MBA, after taking a job in finance, I realized that I carried that gene and my future would not be guaranteed the way I thought it might. And so my direction turned towards how can I make a difference in that community for genetic ALS and FTD.”
How is a biologic therapy manufactured?
Howard says that while developing a biologic therapy is not easy, it is much easier to research and manufacture than previous forms of therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. Earlier therapies have focused on removing cells from a patient’s body, manipulating them, and giving them back to the patient which, Howard says, is expensive and complex. As Coya has evolved into “biologics,” they’ve streamlined the therapeutic process into protein manufacturing and injections—similar to insulin shots. Now, with their new process, Coya is looking at getting approved by the FDA and recently signed an agreement with Reddy’s Therapeutics to start manufacturing their drugs.
“We're very fortunate to have these sort of partners that make quality products that have gone through all the controls and experiments.”
What would you tell med tech and bio companies that are considering starting in Houston?
Howard says that while most companies like Coya start more easily on the West or East coasts, Houston has the largest medical center in the world along with “some of the greatest technology and innovations.” Howard says they are proof that you can start a bio company in Houston from scratch and carry it all the way to an IPO. You just have to find the technology and identify investors, and if you have compelling data, he says that you can sell the science.
“Make the agreements and relationships work with your early-stage investors. And then, of course, incubate your company. And there's a lot of work that's involved there. But we're proof that you can do it.”