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A local biotech company, created by a Texas A&M University professor, continues to grow through partnerships within the university system.

By Alyssa Gafford-Gaby, Texas A&M Innovation

Sano Chemicals was founded in 2012 by Texas A&M biology professor, Dr. Jim Smith. Over the past nine years, Sano Chemicals has continued to develop innovative technologies for acute and chronic illnesses with a focus on treating drug-resistant fungal and bacterial infections. Texas A&M University Texas A&M Innovation, the university’s commercialization and new ventures office has worked in partnership with Sano Chemicals to aid in the commercial application of these innovative technologies by securing patent protection and subsequently licensing the patent rights to Sano. The collaboration with Texas A&M Innovation and other entrepreneurial and commercialization-related university units also helps Sano and Texas A&M contribute directly to the strength and diversity of the local economy by creating new, “high-tech” job opportunities, both in A&M labs and at Sano Chemicals, which currently employs twelve people in various capacities. Ravi Orugunty, Sano Chemicals Vice President of Product Development, said several of the technologies developed in Smith’s Lab at Texas A&M is licensed to Sano.  Sano takes these technologies to the clinical stage.

“The Smith Lab has received a tremendous amount of support from the university system,” said Orugunty. “We are able to move these technologies forward and, as a result, Sano was able to garner sufficient NIH support its product development. Texas A&M Innovation has done all the spadework, so to speak, to make sure that we have a smooth transition of all the technologies from Dr. Smith’s lab to Sano Chemicals.”

The partnership between Sano Chemicals and Texas A&M Innovation has proved beneficial on both fronts. Smith said he views Texas A&M Innovation as one of many valuable partnerships within the university system.

“The relationship entails a license agreement for technology that Sano Chemicals is developing to treat diseases that have unmet needs,” said Smith. “Some of that technology that has come from my lab at A&M is being translated into new medicines to treat infectious diseases and cancer. I’ve always viewed the university as a partner, and we are both in this together. If Sano is not successful, the university is not successful; if Sano is successful, the university is successful.”

Sano Chemicals’ efforts not only benefit those in the university community, but the company has made advances in medical technologies and continues to do so. Smith explained that Sano is currently working on several therapeutic products.

“What we’ve identified as a very potent antifungal compound is one of our technologies, which we are developing into a new treatment for invasive and noninvasive fungal infections,” said Smith. “The lead product we’re developing at Sano right now is a product to treat recurrent vaginal candidiasis. We’re also developing another antimicrobial compound to treat staph infections. We are working on another platform technology to be able to treat cancer, as well.”

Texas A&M Innovation continually seeks to help researchers and inventors in advancing their technologies. Texas A&M Innovation’ Senior Licensing Manager, Ankur Dayal, emphasized that Texas A&M Innovation takes pride in building an exemplary partnership with Sano.

“Sano Chemicals, being created by a Texas A&M professor, is the ideal partner for us, and what better cause than to advance the creation of antibiotics and fight fungal infections which are among the top challenges facing our generation,” said Dayal. “The international patent protections for the invention portfolio makes Sano ready for a global impact.”

Chris Scotti, now Texas A&M Innovation Director of New Ventures, has been working with Sano for over seven years in various roles. Scotti’s New Ventures unit will continue to provide services to help Sano, and other university start-ups, to continue their growth. Sano’s success and continued development have set the standard for growing biotech companies and other prospective partners with Texas A&M Innovation.

“The New Ventures unit that I now run will continue to connect and provide ongoing services, such as assistance in building out a leadership team and seeking larger funding rounds, as companies like Sano continue to grow,” said Scotti. “Dr. Jim Smith and Sano Chemicals serve as a great example for other faculty spinouts to follow; with the faculty member taking a scientific role in the company while continuing as research faculty, with over $2 Million of that sponsored research at Texas A&M funded by the company.”

For more information on Sano Chemicals, visit their website.

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