Happy Monday. Here is a roundup of news in and around Louisville you may have missed.
UofL-founded company’s financing, origins explored
The University of Louisville announced that a company born on campus had received some serious cash — $100 million in Series A financing — to advance cell therapy to improve organ transplant outcomes. That privately held biotechnology company is Talaris Therapeutics, formerly Regenerex.
Regenerex was organized by Craig Greenberg (now CEO of 21c Museum Hotels) and Dr. Suzanne Ildstad in July 2002, according to state records. Ildstad was recruited to the University of Louisville in 1998 and served as the Jewish Hospital Distinguished Professor of Transplantation Research, director of the Institute for Cellular Therapeutics and professor in the Department of Surgery.
According to an insider, she was essentially part of the university’s first “Bucks for Brains” involvement. That program was funded by the state in 1997 and used state funds to match private donations to double the impact of private investment supporting research in strategically defined areas, according to a description on UofL’s website.
(Bucks for Brains won a national award in 2011, according to the Herald-Leader, “for being a model of how states and regions create high-paying jobs through investments in science, technology and innovation.”) Ildstad has spent 21 years as a “Bucks for Brains” researcher at UofL, the university said.
In 2002, Ildstad became chief executive of the newly formed Regenerex LLC, and its chief scientific officer in 2018, according to her UofL bio.
That company used technology developed at UofL to allow living donor kidney transplant recipients to stay off immunosuppression drugs for the rest of their lives, according to UofL. In a Phase 2 study, the cell therapy, called FCR001, allowed 70 percent of living donor kidney transplant patients to be durably weaned off all of their immunosuppression treatments.
Regenerex developed the Facilitating Cell Therapy under license by Novartis and Novartis wrote about “The Next Phase in Transplant Medicine” in 2015, telling the story of one early recipient of the novel stem cell-based therapy. According to the university, that licensing deal is no longer active.
Fast-forward to last week’s announcement. In a news release, Talaris, with offices in Louisville and Boston, said its new name “reflects its patient- and impact-driven mission of inducing and restoring immune tolerance.” The company also named a new CEO, Scott Requadt.
The Series A financing, led by Blackstone Life Sciences, with participation from Longitude Capital and Qiming Venture Partners USA, will advance the company’s cell therapy, FCR001, patented and incubated at UofL, into later-stage clinical development in multiple immune-related indications, Talaris said.
“This financing moves us one step closer to helping organ transplant recipients no longer be dependent on immunosuppressive drugs, resulting in a greatly improved quality of life,” Ildstad said in the news release.
As the news made its way around Twitter, Patrick Henshaw, the chief executive of the Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership, or LEAP, summed it up: “THIS IS HUGE!!” —Mickey Meece
New Directions receives funding boost
New Directions Housing Corporation received a three-year funding commitment from Michelin North America for its Repair Affair program.
The volunteer-driven program is designed to help low-income elderly and disabled homeowners make basic home repairs. The summer initiative involves 1,500 volunteers from around the Louisville area combine to make thousands of repairs, from installing handrails to fixing broken steps.
The announcement was made on Thursday at a home on Oboe Drive where volunteers from American Synthetic Rubber Company, which is owned by Michelin, were making repairs to gutters, windows and more. The first of three installments of $76,300, was presented at the ceremony.
Now in its 26th year, Repair Affair has completed more than 3,400 repair projects at homes throughout Louisville and southern Indiana, including 235 last year. —Kevin Gibson
New owners take over Handyman Connection in Jeffersonville
Handyman Connection, a home repair company that has been operating for more than 25 years, announced its Jeffersonville location has been taken over by new franchisees Daniel Lee and Erron Hickerson. Lee previously worked in health care, while Hickerson worked in the construction industry. Lee also served as a combat medic in the U.S. Air Force for a decade.
Handyman Connection operates more than 68 locations throughout 25 states and Canada, offering services ranging from traditional home repairs to painting and remodeling. —Kevin Gibson
Study: International trade supports 500K+ Kentucky jobs
International trade supports more than one out of every five jobs in Kentucky, according to a new study from the Business Roundtable, a CEO member group that represents more than 15 million employees and $7.5 trillion in revenue.
The group said that international trade supports 512,300 jobs in the commonwealth, with 151,400 being supported by trade with just Canada and Mexico. Exports from Kentucky to those two countries have increased 568 percent since the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The roundtable released the study in support of its call for the U.S. government to urge Congress to pass the NAFTA successor, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“We stand united to preserve and modernize North American trade, which supports over 12 million jobs and a strong U.S. economy,” said Tom Linebarger, chair of the Business Roundtable Trade & International Committee and CEO of engine maker Cummins, based in Columbus, Ind. —Boris Ladwig
UofL launches distilled spirits certificate
That’s the spirit! The University of Louisville is launching a distilled spirits certificate to keep up with Kentucky’s burgeoning bourbon industry, the school announced Thursday.
UofL professors and industry experts will teach five-week terms online beginning this fall, according to a news release. The nine-hour graduate business certificate will count toward an MBA degree.
“We are aligning the certificate program with the needs of distilled spirits organizations to develop a mutually beneficial talent pipeline that serves our business community and our students,” Todd Mooradian, the business school dean, said in a news release.
UofL’s announcement came a day after in-state rival University of Kentucky received a $5 million donation from Jim Beam to create a spirits institute. Called an “investment in the future of bourbon,” the donation will build on UK’s five-year-old distillation, wine and brewing studies certificate.
Eric Gregory, the president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, teased an “impressive statewide initiative” in the coming months spanning multiple universities to bolster the workforce for jobs in the “bourbon hospitality” and distillation industries.
“Our signature bourbon industry is an incredible economic engine for the Commonwealth and a thriving global symbol of Kentucky craftsmanship and tradition,” Gregory said in a news release from UK. —Olivia Krauth
According to the Jefferson County Clerk’s office, Monday, April 22, is the last day to register to vote in the May 21 primary.
Monday also is the day the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky will unveil a statewide anti-vaping campaign to warn youths about the dangers of using electronic cigarettes. The campaign will feature middle- and high-school students from around Kentucky in public service announcements.
The state’s jobless rate stood at 4% in March, down from 4.3% in March 2018, according to preliminary numbers from the Kentucky Center for Statistics.
The University of Louisville Board of Trustees on Thursday and the UofL Athletics Association Board of Directors on Friday approved the appointment of Josh Heird as deputy athletic director at UofL starting May 13.