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BIO Digital 2021 Innovation Zone Company Snapshot: TheraCea Pharma

June 1, 2021

The NIH Innovation Zone at BIO Digital 2021 will feature more than 40 NIH-funded small businesses and their cutting-edge work. The NIH Innovation Zone is part of the brand-new Innovation Stage that will feature leading global innovators, regional economic development groups, disruptive biotech start-ups, and more. BIO Digital attendees can get a head start on BIO digital week – the Innovation Stage, including the NIH Innovation Zone, runs June 10-18 and is complimentary for any registered BIO Digital attendee.

As we have seen this past year, innovation and research comes from everywhere – companies, government and educational institutions. That’s the case for Innovation Zone participant, TheraCea Pharma, which spun off from the University of Arizona. Theracea Pharma developed a diagnostic agent to help diagnosis diseases and evaluate treatment options. We spoke with TheraCea Pharma’s CEO, Iman Daryaei about the company’s technology and goals.


What is your company’s lead product or technology?

At TheraCea Pharma, we are developing a platform technology for the preparation of diagnostic agents, so-called radiotracers, for the detection of biomarkers by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging. More specifically, our technology enables 18F-labeling of biomolecules including peptides and proteins in late stages of development that can be performed by laboratory technicians with no expertise in fluorine chemistry. There are several advantages using our technology:

  • it is adopted by partners that own commercial radiopharmacies where the radiotracers can be provided to a larger population of patients.
  • novel specific radiotracers for better diagnosis of diseases and evaluation of therapy are produced.
  • it reduced the overall cost of production and administration of the radiotracers to the patients.

How has the NIH SBIR program helped your company grow?

As proof of concept with investment by National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering/NIH, TheraCea Pharma is evolving the core technology to prepare radiotracers for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The support enables TheraCea Pharma to take this technology from a research laboratory to an industry setup where the next generation of cancer radiotracers can be prepared. Currently we are labeling antibodies and antibody-fragments for the detection of cancer biomarkers specifically breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women with 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2021. Early diagnosis of the disease will provide better and more therapy options to the patients.

What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?

TheraCea Pharma’s focus is to show the applications of the radiotracers in detection of the biomarkers in animal models that will allow the team to use the technology for the preparation of the radiotracers for clinical applications. Our long-term goal is to introduce a new series of radiotracers to detect three different major types of cancers to the market by 2026. To reach this goal, we are looking for partnership with companies and groups with interest in this area. TheraCea Pharma has already formed a co-development partnership with an established biotechnology company that will allow TheraCea to start a new program in immunotherapy.