Written by Barb Consiglio.
In the Greek legend, Milo of Croton is renowned for his strength and fabled to carry an ox on his shoulders. Milo Biotechnology in Cleveland, Ohio, chose their company name to channel this strength and deliver it to patients suffering from muscular dystrophies. Those with the degenerative muscular diseases slowly lose mobility, but Milo Biotechnology’s gene therapy is offering hope to these patients by not only stopping muscle loss, but improving strength.
“The medical need is great in these diseases. In the absence of therapy, patients’ muscle function would decrease steadily year over year until they are confined to a wheelchair,” said Al Hawkins, founder and CEO of Milo Biotechnology. “With just one injection of our drug, the hope is that patients are able to continue walking and to actually increase their muscle function over time.”
Muscular dystrophies are a range of degenerative diseases caused by gene mutation or that develop sporadically later in life. Milo Biotechnology’s therapy injects a protein that increases muscle function and builds muscle mass and strength. The technology was developed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital over the past 10 years by scientists Dr. Jerry Mendell and Dr. Brian Kaspar, and was licensed by Milo Biotechnology to bring the therapy to market.
The company continues to work closely with the hospital, completing clinical trials in three types of muscular dystrophy; the drug has been shown to be safe in 18 patients and has demonstrated positive initial efficacy, which have shown positive results in the long-term effects of the therapy. The hope is that Milo Biotechnology’s medication will be the future in the treatment of degenerative muscle disorders, allowing those with muscular dystrophy to continue to walk and maintain a better quality of life.
Hawkins has translated promising research to biotechnology startups throughout his career, and was recruited by Cleveland-based BioEnterprise as an entrepreneur in residence. He discovered that Nationwide Children’s Hospital had very promising research in muscular dystrophy and partnered with the hospital’s Center for Gene Therapy, launching Milo Biotechnology in January 2012.
The company has received funding from Cuyahoga County and JumpStart, a northeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. Milo Biotechnology also received an investment from Rev1 Ventures, another Third Frontier partner in central Ohio, allowing the company to hire key consultants, secure intellectual property and interview neurologists who will ultimately be the consumers of the product.
Milo Biotechnology is currently planning a larger clinical trial and expects to have their therapy on the market by 2020. Hawkins says after being an entrepreneur in other large cities across the country, he has been able to work through the early stages of Milo Biotechnology much faster and easier thanks to the resources in Ohio.
“The combination of opportunity, support and lower cost of living that Ohio offers is a great formula for entrepreneurs,” said Hawkins. “I don’t think Milo Biotechnology would exist without the time and space to develop the company at BioEnterprise, as well as the capital to get going in the right direction.”