Over the past 40 years, I’ve been fortunate to work in a lot of different fields in veterinary medicine. When I was in academia at Kansas State University in 1989, I learned about the entrepreneurial side of the profession and was able to be a part of a veterinary startup that created an FDA-approved product to treat Cushing’s disease and cognitive dysfunction in dogs. It felt extremely rewarding to be able to bring this product to market so veterinarians like myself could use it in their everyday practice.
When I began working as a Medical Director at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital in 1996, I saw dogs coming in almost every day with diseases for which options were limited and had not changed in 30 years. One of those diseases was lymphoma. After delivering the heartbreaking diagnosis, I only had two options for owners: One, we could walk downstairs to the oncologist who would offer them standard-of-care therapy using a chemotherapy protocol called CHOP. And, while this protocol is associated with the longest survival times, it is rarely curative. In addition, for many clients, there are concerns regarding cost and the potential for side effects. The only other option I had was to prescribe steroids as palliative care, providing the owners with a limited amount of time to cope with the fact that they were going to lose their pet.
I felt that there had to be a way to create another alternative for lymphoma treatment, as well as several other unmet pharmaceutical needs in the veterinary community. Lucky for me, a young but experienced entrepreneur named Dylan Balsz felt the same way. And after he sent me a cold email message through LinkedIn asking if I knew anything about dog diabetes, we met to discuss how we could find and develop drugs more rapidly and for less money. Looking back, I’m sure glad I didn’t ignore that message—and I’m sure the 700,000 dogs diagnosed with lymphoma each year are too.
Anivive Lifesciences was started in 2015 with the idea that we could get veterinary therapies to market faster and cheaper by leveraging the tremendous amounts of data that exist surrounding medications being developed for diseases in man. This is where our Chief Technology Officer, Cody Arbuckle, PhD, came in. He was able to create a software that sifted through the 30,000 drugs that various researchers had in development for numerous diseases. This allowed us to discover and develop LAVERDIA™-CA1 (verdinexor), the first and only oral tablet to treat lymphoma in dogs.
LAVERDIA-CA1 is special for several reasons. Given the main obstacles to any cancer treatment are cost, convenience and concerns over side effects, we wanted to develop a therapy that could increase access to care for more lymphoma patients.
LAVERDIA-CA1 is the first veterinary SINE inhibitor on the market, and its mechanism of action results in lymphoma cells being targeted while normal cells are spared. This results in the drug’s demonstrated efficacy and safety in studies involving pet dogs with lymphoma. In addition, treatment does not decrease the pet’s quality of life which is very comforting for pet owners and veterinarians when prescribing a therapy for a fatal disease.
Treatment is also convenient as tablets are easy for owners to administer from the comfort of their own home without having to put their dogs through unnecessary and inconvenient trips to the veterinarian.
Getting this first approval was huge for Anivive. It provided internal (our Anivive team) and external (veterinary professionals and pet owners) validation of our strategy. It also allowed us to now focus on our pipeline of other therapeutics. One of the exciting products in that pipeline, that likely will result in our second approval, is an anti-fungal vaccine to prevent Valley Fever.
Valley Fever is an infection caused by inhaling Coccidioides fungal spores found most commonly in the soil of the Western and Southwestern United States. Symptoms in humans resemble those of the flu, but dogs are more likely to develop severe disseminated forms of the disease.
Because of climate change, Valley Fever, which was originally isolated to Arizona, is now in the Southwest and Northwest and, by the end of the century, will be everywhere west of the Mississippi, all the way up to the Canadian border. This is why it is becoming more and more crucial to find a preventative.
There is also the potential to use this same technology to develop other fungal vaccines for diseases such as histoplasmosis and blastomycosis which occur in the more eastern parts of the United States.
We also get calls almost every day from pet owners and veterinarians asking about our investigational treatment (GC 376) to treat the feline coronavirus FIP. This would have a huge impact on cats, cat owners and the veterinary profession as, world-wide, there are no treatments for this disease, and it is 100% fatal. It could also potentially lead to a path for human use, which, as coronaviruses continues to evolve, would be nothing short of groundbreaking.
Throughout my years as a veterinary professional, I have strived to provide the animals I treat with the best quality of care. Anivive has allowed me to take this one step further by bringing new, trailblazing solutions to the veterinary industry. We are determined to solve the unmet needs of the animal health community and LAVERDIA-CA1 is just the start of something greater. +
To learn more about how Anivive is working to address unmet needs for pets, visit anivive.com.