About

DNAtrix, Inc. is a biotechnology company focused on the development of oncolytic virus technology for the treatment of cancer.  DNAtrix’s lead product, delta24-RGD, is a next-generation adenovirus invented by company founders Dr. Juan Fueyo and Dr. Frank McCormick.  delta24-RGD is designed to destroy cancer cells without harming normal tissue.  It is hoped that this therapy can be added to the arsenal of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for the treatment of a variety of tumors.  The company launched its first human clinical trials in 2009 at the MD Anderson Cancer Center for the treatment of brain cancer.

DNAtrix has been funded to date by DFJ Mercury and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. The company is headquartered in Houston, TX.

Management

Frank Tufaro, Ph.D., CEO – Frank Tufaro has extensive experience with biotech firms. He was one of the founders of Neurovir, Inc., a Vancouver-based biotech company with a mission to develop herpes-simplex virus oncolytic vectors for treating cancer.  Frank was instrumental in raising venture financing that established NeuroVir as the major player in the field of viral oncology. Frank, a former University of British Columbia Microbiology professor, wherein he studied herpes virology and cancer, initially served as Chief Scientific Officer.  He then served as CEO, during which time he helped negotiate and execute the successful merger of NeuroVir with MediGene AG, and built the drug development team.  He currently works with several biotechnology firms in the area of immunology and cancer.

Founders

Charles Conrad, MD – Dr. Conrad divides his time between active patient care within the clinic and laboratory investigations and has participated in numerous clinical trials evaluating agents for primary brain tumor therapy.  His focus has been to identify similarities of tumor biology and clinical progression in an attempt to develop new treatment agents that may be effective against primary brain tumors.  His primary areas of concern are to improve treatment strategies for patients with high-grade glial neoplasms and both his clinic and research efforts are directed towards these areas. He has four primary areas of focus within his laboratory concerning: (1) the development of oncolytic adenoviral therapies in conjunction with a noted researcher in the Department of Neuro-Oncology; (2) evaluating the effectiveness of using newer signal transduction inhibitors in mouse brain tumor models; (3) novel in-house drug development with collaborations with researchers in the Department in Experimental Therapeutics, and  (4) developing an understanding of the biology of galactins in gliomagenesis and progression.  Dr. Conrad is currently the Medical Director of the Brain and Spine Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology.

Juan Fueyo, MD — Juan Fueyo trained as a neurologist in Barcelona and joined M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in 1994. Since then his laboratory has focused on the development of new therapies for brain tumors. His preliminary work examined the cell cycle regulation of malignant gliomas and the possibility of using cell cycle regulators such as p16 and Rb in molecular therapy strategies. As a natural evolution of this process, Dr. Fueyo has characterized the anti-glioma effect of an oncolytic adenovirus, termed Delta-24. Several lines of research are aiming to improve the efficacy of Delta-24.The first of these oncolytic agents, a Delta-24 adenovirus with enhanced tropism, is now been tested in a clinical trial. Dr. Fueyo’s goal is to leverage the Delta-24 concept into an oncolytic adenovirus platform that will allow the pre-clinical and clinical testing of oncolytic adenovirus in combination with conventional and experimental treatments of cancer including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.   Dr. Fueyo currently holds the title of Associate professor with tenure in the Department of Neuro-Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He is also a Faculty Member of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston and participates as permanent member in Study Sections of the National Institutes of Health.

Cande Manzano, MD — Dr. Gomez-Manzano joined the Department of Neuro-Oncology after she attended medical school and sought official training as a Neurologist in one of the major clinical hospitals in Barcelona, Spain. She joined M. D. Anderson Cancer Center after being awarded with a prestigious grant. Currently, Dr. Gomez-Manzano holds an Assistant Professor position, tenure-track, in the Department of Neuro-Oncology, as well as a Joint Appointment in the Department of Genetics. She is also a Faculty Member of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston. Dr. Gomez-Manzano is working within a multidisciplinary research program that is completely focused on brain tumor research. Her remarkable personal productivity has resulted in more than 65 publications and several awards, including support by the National Cancer Institute. She has actively participated in the germinal studies of Delta-24-RGD and collaborated through the multi-step process involved in moving this promising agent to the clinic.

Al Yung, MD – Dr. Yung currently holds the title of Professor Neuro-Oncology and Cancer Biology, as well as the Margaret and Ben Love Chair of Clinical Cancer Care. He has served as Chair of the Department of Neuro-Oncology since 1999.  He is also Professor of Neurology at the UT Health Sciences Center at Houston Medical School and serves on the faculty of the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Houston.  Dr. Yung has extensive experience and expertise in the field of brain tumor research.  His research program at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center spans more than two decades and includes basic, translational, and clinical research. Along with 23 years of continuous funding by NCI, his work has also been funded by foundations and industry grants. The overall objective of his research program is to develop new therapeutic approaches to block the regulatory mechanisms of brain cancer cells. His primary research interest focuses on development of molecular therapeutic strategies targeting the EGFR and PTEN/PI3 kinase pathways and the angiogenic regulatory mechanisms that are crucial to human glioma genesis and progression.  The translational research effort has developed several adenoviral vectors that are capable of down-regulating TGF-α and VEGF production and angiogenesis in glioma cells. More recently, his laboratory has focused on investigating the biological activity of a series of new PTEN/PI3K pathway inhibitors in glioblastoma in vitro and in vivo models.

Board of Directors

Dan Watkins, Ph.D., Board Chairman – Dan Watkins has experience in founding and managing start-up companies in both the advanced materials and bioscience sectors.  Prior to co-founding DFJ Mercury, Dan was the founder and Managing Partner of A3 Associates, a Houston-based venture firm focused on seed-stage investments in university and research center-based technology transfer opportunities. In this capacity, Dan co-founded DNAtrix, Nanospectra Biosciences and X-EMI.  He has also been awarded a number of National Science Foundation grants as Principal Investigator for advanced materials and life sciences research.  Prior to A3 Associates, Dan was a VP at Schnitzius & Vaughan, a Houston-based investment banking firm, and served as worldwide manager for operations and control systems for Scientific Software Intercomp.  Dan received his B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Rice University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Dan currently serves on the advisory boards of BioHouston, the Gulf Coast Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization for the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, and the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship.  He is a co-founder of the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship.

Frank McCormick, Ph.D.— University of California San Francisco:  Professor and Director, UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Dr. McCormick has had significant success in founding and managing biotech companies. He was founder and CSO of Onyx, Inc. ($800M market cap).  VP Research, Chiron ($9B market cap).  VP Research, Cetus ($880M acquisition by Chiron).

Frank Tufaro, Ph.D.—DNAtrix CEO