"We found that cancer cells are gluttons and need to eat and make fat or what scientists call lipids,” says Founding CEO Arvin Gouw. “That’s why we named the company Bacchus, after the god of food and wine."
Bacchus Therapeutics grew out of discoveries made by Dr. Gouw in Professor Dean Felsher’s laboratory at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Bacchus’ proprietary compounds that exploit cancer’s addiction to making lipids cause regression of incurable cancers, in particular cancers caused by the MYC oncogene, responsible for 70% of human cancers.
"Bacchus' new drug could be finally a treatment for MYC-driven cancers," says Dr. Felsher, the co-founder of Bacchus Therapeutics, who has been studying how the MYC oncogene causes cancer for over 20 years.
Gouw and Felsher started the biotech firm in 2019, and when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down their lab in early 2020, they dedicated their lockdown time to writing and submitting grants.
Bacchus Therapeutics was one of the first winners in the IGNITE program, a non-dilutive grant program offered by Prince William County Department of Economic Development.
“The cost effectiveness of being in Prince William County, rather than out in Silicon Valley, has been a considerable factor in establishing a lab here,” says Gouw.
In addition to cost effectiveness, Gouw considered the resources the Bacchus team can leverage with IGNITE grant funding.
“The Prince William County Department of Economic Development and its website offer resources to help businesses grow," says Gouw. "That’s where I learned about the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (formerly Center for Innovative Technology), the research facilities at George Mason University, and the Northern Virginia Bioscience Center currently under development."
Bacchus Therapeutics is moving into the Prince William County Accelerator, located in Innovation Park and home to one of the fastest-growing biotechnology clusters in the Greater Washington, D.C. region.
With four pending patents, the next stage for Bacchus is optimizing their compounds for clinical trials. Although Bacchus' goal is to develop cancer therapies, the market size for cancers is too large to just start there.
As the team pursue approvals from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Gouw intends to focus first on specific rare cancers to better ensure smaller, more precise clinical trials, and provide hope to patients who currently have no effective treatment options.
"With rare diseases, you know what to look for," says Gouw. "We know the exact genetic makeup that we need for a clinical trial, and then we can quickly determine if the compound works or not. That makes it easier to determine the effective treatment regimen without causing toxic side effects."
"Within the next five years, we need have a lot of opportunities to grow," says Gouw. "We will have multiple developments to get us to the safest, most effective regimen."