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Oakland startup wants to battle the invasion of the superbugs
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
6:30 AM DEC 18, 2017
The conversation went something like this a couple years back when Jonathan Steckbeck met Dietrich Stephan at a Tuesday morning networking event:

“We think we have the cure for the looming superbug epidemic,” Mr. Stephan recalled the 41-year-old entrepreneur saying. “I said, ‘Oh, really. Send us all your stuff.’”

The introduction paid off. Mr. Steckbeck’s company, Oakland-based Peptilogics Inc., recently closed on a $5.5 million Series A financing round led by Facebook Inc.’s first major investor Peter Thiel. Mr. Stephan, a serial entrepreneur and chair of the department of human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, has become Peptilogics chairman.

Moreover, Peptilogics is among 10 startup companies that will have work space in Pitt’s new business accelerator that is planned for the Strip District — all things that happened after a chance meeting over coffee.

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Peptilogics, which now employs 15 people, is preparing for clinical trials of its first product by mid-2018, a medicine to treat the toughest infections. Marketing of its first product will hinge on how well the clinical trials go.

“The company is developing a set of products — new antibiotics — that work in a way that no other antibiotics work,” Mr. Stephan said. “They kill every type of bacteria we have exposed our products to. This is a looming global epidemic and we feel like we’ve got the answer to that, and I think the market agrees.”

A World Health Organization report in September identified 51 new biologicals and antibiotics in clinical development to treat priority antibiotic-resistant organisms, but only eight of those were classed by WHO as innovative treatments that will add value to current treatments.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will severely jeopardize progress in modern medicine,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a prepared statement.

Peptilogics’ secret, licensed from the University of Pittsburgh, kills bacteria by creating weak spots in cell membranes, leading to cell death. That’s a shift from having to get inside the cell to disrupt the inner workings, which is how antibiotics have worked for decades.

The 5-year-old company, which also has an office in San Jose, does not yet have revenue.

Mr. Steckbeck, a native of Lebanon, Pa., and Peptilogics president and chief scientific officer, received an MBA as well as an PhD in biochemistry, at Pitt. He became interested in how amino acid chains, called peptides, interact with membranes during his doctoral work, then focused on how peptides can be harnessed to weaken bacteria cell membrane as a post-doc.

Mr. Steckbeck also was deeply affected by the death of his father-in-law 13 years ago from a bacterial infection despite care in “one of the best hospitals in the world.”

“Unless you have a very clear, personal demonstration, you understand on a theoretical level that these things are possible,” he said. “At that point, in 2004, it wasn’t theoretical any more.”

Peptilogics’ target is bacteria that inevitably find ways to resist antibiotics and cause life threatening diseases.

More than 2 million people are sickened each year by antibiotic resistant infections, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications, but up to half of the prescriptions are not needed or effective — setting the stage for drug resistance.

Among the organisms that Peptilogics’ first product will target are so-called Gram-negative bacteria. Pneumonia and bloodstream infections are among the problems caused by the bacteria.

New drug development can be a costly venture. Not so long ago, pharma startups needed a partner, a much larger drugmaker, for example, to bring a new medicine to market.

But Peptilogics has held down overhead and operating costs and may not need big capital infusions to see the company through its early stages, including proof-of-concept clinical trials, said 50-year-old Sanjay Kakkar, a physician and entrepreneur and Peptilogics CEO. “We are very well positioned in the early- to mid-stages as an independent company.”

Kris B. Mamula: kmamula@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699


ALung Receives IDE Approval from FDA

Dear Friends of ALung:

I am pleased to share with you the following press release announcing approval of ALung’s Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a pivotal trial of  the Hemolung RAS in the United States.The FDA’s IDE approval makes ALung’s VENT-AVOID Trial the first pivotal trial of extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) for treating patients with COPD exacerbations.

As noted in the release, this is a very significant milestone for ALung, and I am very proud of our team which has exhibited great dedication to this effort. I am also grateful to our clinical advisers, investors, and many business partners who have helped us get to this point. With IDE approval in hand, we are now working to bring clinical sites online and enrolling patients over the upcoming winter months when COPD exacerbations tend to increase.

As always, if you would like a personal update on ALung, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best Regards,
Pete DeComo
Chairman and CEO

Link to press release on Business Wire


ALung Receives IDE Approval to Conduct VENT-AVOID Trial of the Hemolung RAS for the US Market

PITTSBURGH (September 27, 2017) – ALung Technologies, Inc., today announced U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of its Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) to conduct a pivotal clinical trial of the Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System for the treatment of adults with severe acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The FDA’s approval of the IDE makes ALung’s VENT-AVOID Trial the first pivotal trial of extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) for treating patients with COPD exacerbations.

“The achievement of FDA approval for initiation of the VENT-AVOID Trial is an important milestone towards making the Hemolung RAS and ECCO2R therapy available to US patients and their physicians,” said Peter DeComo, Chairman and CEO of ALung. “We believe that there is great potential for the Hemolung technology to facilitate ventilator avoidance, resulting in improved clinical outcomes and a lower cost of care through a reduction in length of stay in the intensive care unit.”

The VENT-AVOID Trial is a prospective, multi-center, randomized, controlled, pivotal trial to validate the safety and efficacy of the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System for COPD patients experiencing an acute exacerbation requiring ventilatory support. Forty hospitals will enroll up to 800 patients in the trial. The study protocol is built around a state of the art adaptive statistical plan which will allow for PMA submission when early success criteria are reached, potentially with as few as 300 patients enrolled. COPD patients suffering severe exacerbations will be eligible for the study if they are either 1) failing non-invasive ventilation and presenting a high risk of being intubated and mechanically ventilated or 2) have required intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation due to acute respiratory failure. Serving as the study principal investigator is Dr. Nicholas Hill, MD, Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Hill is an international leader in pulmonary critical care medicine, having led studies which established non-invasive ventilation as the standard of care for COPD exacerbations.

In addition to the US-based VENT-AVOID study, The Hemolung RAS is also being studied in a landmark pivotal study for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) as part of the 1,120-patient REST Trial in the United Kingdom. “Our commitment to clinical science runs very deep,” added Mr. DeComo. “We will soon be the only company participating in not just one, but two major pivotal trials validating the safety and efficacy of extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal therapy provided by the Hemolung RAS.”

ALung worked collaboratively with the FDA under its Expedited Access Pathway (EAP) program to obtain IDE approval. The Expedited Access Pathway is a new FDA program aimed to facilitate more rapid patient access to breakthrough technologies intended to treat or diagnose life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions. ALung will continue to collaborate with the FDA during study enrollment and through the PMA process.

COPD affects 30 million Americans (1) and is the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cancer and heart disease. (2) Acute exacerbations, defined as a sudden worsening of COPD symptoms, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in COPD patients. For patients with severe exacerbations, high levels of carbon dioxide can result in respiratory failure and the need for intubation and mechanical ventilation as life saving measures. Unfortunately, mechanical ventilation is associated with many side effects, and in-hospital mortality remains as high as 30%. ECCO2R therapy with the Hemolung RAS allows carbon dioxide to be removed from the blood independently of the lungs with the aim of facilitating the avoidance or reduction of intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation.

ALung was founded in 1997 by Dr. William Federspiel, Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and the late Dr. Brack Hattler, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon. Dr. Federspiel and his team at the University’s Medical Devices Laboratory, part of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, developed the original Hemolung technology which was subsequently licensed by ALung for commercial development. The Hemolung RAS has been approved outside of the United States since 2013 and is commercially available in major European markets.

About ALung Technologies

ALung Technologies, Inc. is a privately-held Pittsburgh-based developer and manufacturer of innovative lung assist devices. Founded in 1997 as a spin-out of the University of Pittsburgh, ALung has developed the Hemolung RAS as a dialysis-like alternative or supplement to mechanical ventilation. ALung is backed by Philips, UPMC Enterprises, Abiomed, The Accelerator Fund, Allos Ventures, Birchmere Ventures, Blue Tree Ventures, Eagle Ventures, Riverfront Ventures, West Capital Advisors, and other individual investors.

For more information about ALung and the Hemolung RAS, visit www.alung.com.

For more information about the VENT-AVOID Trial, visit https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03255057.

The Hemolung RAS is an Investigational Device and limited by United States law to investigational use.

This press release may contain forward-looking statements, which, if not based on historical facts, involve current assumptions and forecasts as well as risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from the results or events stated in the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, certain events not within the Company’s control. Events that could cause results to differ include failure to meet ongoing developmental and manufacturing timelines, changing GMP requirements, the need for additional capital requirements, risks associated with regulatory approval processes, adverse changes to reimbursement for the Company’s products/services, and delays with respect to market acceptance of new products/services and technologies. Other risks may be detailed from time to time, but the Company does not attempt to revise or update its forward-looking statements even if future experience or changes make it evident that any projected events or results expressed or implied therein will not be realized.


Media Contact:

Scott Morley
Sr. Vice President of Market Development
ALung Technologies, Inc.
+1-412-697-3370 ext. 208

1.      https://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/COPD-Facts/Statistics.aspx

2.      http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/research/copd-trend-report.pdf

View this release on Business Wire





C360 Technologies, a startup working in 360-degree video, receives $3.5 million in funding

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
3:28 PM AUG 2, 2017

A startup in Pine is the first Pittsburgh-area company and the fourth overall to receive funding from Boeing’s new venture capital arm, HorizonX Ventures.

C360 Technologies Inc. creates 360-degree video solutions for broadcast, and has been in operation since 2008.

C360 reported $3.5 million in an oversubscribed Series A funding round Wednesday afternoon, led by HorizonX and Wexford-based BlueTree Capital Group. An oversubscribed round includes more investment than was originally projected.

The company originally projected $2.5 million, according to a spokesperson.

HorizonX and BlueTree are also accompanied by investments from York, Penn.-based MI-12 Ventures and Pasadena Angels in California.

The company’s proprietary processes have earned it relationships with Fox Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN, TNT, NASCAR, the National Football League and the National Hockey League, among others.

Fox Sports used a camera from C360 for its Super Bowl LI coverage in February.

C360 develops 360-degree video and virtual reality content that does not require multi-headed cameras or “stitching,” which involves arranging multiple photos into one cohesive image.

The company also credits itself for having the “industry’s smallest pro-grade immersive camera,” according to its website. An immersive camera can shoot 360-degree video for use in virtual reality applications.

Investment from this round will be used to develop advanced features like C360 replay applications, additional camera controls and video insertion for virtual reality and augmented animation.

Boeing’s presence through HorizonX extends C360’s reach in future advancements in streaming virtual reality to second screen devices in the aeronautical industry. A second screen experience revolves around one device, such as a mobile phone, being used to enhance the experience on another device, like a television or monitor.

Potential aerospace applications of C360’s innovative video technology include more capable autonomous systems and other advanced platforms.

In the past few months, HorizonX has invested in an Austin, Texas-based artificial intelligence company, an aircraft manufacturing startup based in Kirkland, Washington and a Herndon, Virginia-based wearable technology firm.

“Boeing’s support for the growth of C360 Technologies is a testament to the capabilities of the company’s platform technology and founding team, said Catherine Mott of BlueTree Capital Group in a release. “We are very pleased with this partnership.”

​Courtney Linder: clinder@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. Twitter: @LinderPG.



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