Start-up company Abel Therapeutics and their potential investor, the Rebel Venture Fund, plan to launch a revolutionary technology that can possibly cure illness-afflicted patients.
Focused on investing with local businesses, the Rebel Venture Fund allows students to gain real-life experience. This organization selects promising companies and allows students to participate in the investment process. They are advised by local entrepreneurs.
One of these promising companies may be Abel Therapeutics. The company is centered around UNLV biochemistry professor Ernesto Abel-Santos’ findings and has a licensing agreement with UNLV. If negotiations with Rebel Venture Fund go through, the student organization will provide funding.
Dr. Abel-Santos’ research concerns about Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections, a common disease afflicting chickens which must be treated with antibiotics. Chickens that do not receive antibiotics die from severe diarrhea or become too frail to serve as food, which can cause huge monetary losses.
Until now, a reactive response has been the only option to deal with infections, but Abel-Santos has created a compound meant to feed chickens which prevents infection from occurring in the first place.
“Some of those bacteria, when the environment becomes inhospitable, become spores, which lets them survive until conditions are better,” Zachary Miles said, associate vice president for economic development and adviser to Rebel Venture Fund. “So when you feed it to the chickens, it shuts off the receptors. It tricks the spore into thinking it still can’t survive.”
Local investor and businessman, Richard Sloan, initially introduced the technology to Miles. Miles then brought the idea to Rebel Venture Fund during early testing stages and led negotiations for investment.
“When it was first presented to us, there were four different areas of research,” said Roddrick Reed, a Rebel Venture Fund director. “But the one they were going to focus on first was the one with chickens because there’s a need for it and would likely see the most rapid growth.”
The goal for this research is to eventually help people who suffer from these infections. It would be a much needed help not only in the food industry, but also in medical fields.
“This technology, if successful, will grow so large that it will be able to tackle other lines of research,” Reed said.
In the meantime, it is simply a matter of when Abel Therapeutics will take off and make this hope a reality.
“In the early stages of a business, they’re usually finding their footing, so you see a slow growth in the early years,” said Khalon Richard, another Rebel Venture Fund director. “If the results are successful, then there’s already a market for it.”
Rebel Venture Fund usually expects a return on their investment in five to eight years. For Abel Therapeutics, a long wait may not be needed.
Rebel Venture Fund and Abel Therapeutics’ negotiation has not yet been finalized due to unavailable test results for the compound. The exact date is unknown since testing in Colorado lengthened when Abel-Santos had to assist in the creation of spores and instruct others how to perform proper trials.
Miles explained that if the compound works as it should, it will be a game changer in the biotechnology field and will change the way we deal with these infections. The possibilities for this compound are so promising that they even reached out to Tyson Foods.
“The main goal would be to go to a feed producer,” Miles said. “It could be manufactured in Las Vegas, and then shipped off to producers.”
This will be the first deal rooted in biotechnology that Rebel Venture Fund has tackled and it is the first deal Rebel Venture Fund student members were unable to directly test due to the scientific research.
Rebel Venture Fund’s board members receive a pitch generally conducted by student Rebel Venture Fund members. More seasoned entrepreneurs then advise students which companies to invest in, and students then do their own research on a potential company.
Abel Therapeutics’ entrepreneurs had to present their company in place of the student members of the Rebel Venture Fund because of the scientific language. Despite this, Reed and Richard are confident that Abel Therapeutics could put UNLV on the map.
“As far as what the future holds, we are interested in investing, so we’re hopeful, especially since it would solve a problem such as this,” Richard said. “I feel like if this succeeds, it would showcase a lot of the great talent we have here.”
Abel Therapeutics mainly consists of three people: Miles, Sloan and Dr. Abel-Santos working as the lead scientist.