Name: A&G Pharmaceutical Inc.
Funding: The company has raised $2.4 million from the National Institutes of Health, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and private investors. A&G is raising $2 million more in a series A round of venture funding.
Big idea: A&G is developing cancer "theranostics," products that would have diagnostic as well as therapeutic applications. A&G's products will target GP88, a cancer-growth factor discovered by Ginette Serrero, founder and chief executive. GP88 is present in 80 percent of breast cancers, according to Serrero, and enables cancerous cells to proliferate and migrate. The company is developing diagnostic tools that would measure the presence of GP88 in the body through biopsy and blood tests to detect breast cancer and monitor a cancer patient's response to therapy. A&G is also developing a therapeutic antibody that would bind to GP88, disable it, and suppress the growth of cancerous cells. The company also produces a variety of monoclonal antibodies used in its own research and sold to academic institutions, biotechnology companies and pharmaceutical companies.
Where the idea was hatched: Serrero, a protein biochemist, discovered GP88 while researching the correlation between cell differentiation and cancer. Serrero said she built a model that took normal cells and gradually made them cancerous through differentiation. "I compared all of these cells . . . and found they'd become completely dependent on themselves to proliferate. They shut off their ability to respond to the environment surrounding them. By becoming autonomous they escape all of those signals and produce their own growth-stimulating protein," GP88.
Big-name customers: NIH, Boehringer Ingelheim and a number of universities use A&G's monoclonal antibodies in their research.
Who's in charge: Serrero; Gordon H. Sato, chairman; Randy Barton, vice president of drug discovery; and Michael Keefe, vice president of business development.
Web site: www.agrx.net
What the name means: "A&G stands for antibody and growth factor," Serrero said. "That's the two core technologies of the company. Also, we figured if it starts with an 'A' it would be at the top of the list."
Quote: "I've been doing this before there was a word for it," said Serrero, referring to the developing field of theranostics.
-- Andrea Caumont