UArizona bioscience startup selected for Flinn Foundation program

March 2, 2023

TheraCea Pharma is one of six companies honored with admission to the exclusive entrepreneurship experience.

The following is an adaptation of the story posted by the Flinn Foundation, “On the rise in 2023: Six Arizona bioscience startups,” posted February 23, 2023.

University of Arizona startup TheraCea Pharma has been named as one of six startups selected for the 10th cohort of the Flinn Foundation Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program.

With help from Tech Launch Arizona, the unit of the university that commercializes inventions stemming from research, the Tucson-based company was launched in 2020 to develop a set of diagnostic agents that allow oncologists and pharmaceutical companies to select the right segment of patients who will be responsive to specific immunotherapy drugs. The method was developed by Iman Daryaei, a former Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and CEO of TheraCea; Mark Pagel, former UArizona professor of cancer imaging, now a professor at the MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Abigail Shepard, who was a Ph.D. student at the time in the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy, now a scientist at Roche.   

After working with TLA, TheraCea went on to the University of Arizona Center for Innovation incubator to advance the company. 

The technology that the TheraCea team is developing addresses the greatest challenge in the emerging $145 billion cancer immunotherapy in patient selection and therapy guidance. The diagnostic products will detect and quantify immunotherapy biomarkers in the body in real-time to identify the right segment of patients for immunotherapy products and monitor response to therapy during the treatment plan through Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging.

“This breakthrough approach will simplify preparation and improve the effectiveness of these procedures,” said Bruce Burgess, director of venture development for TLA.  “As a result, it can also increase patient access to these critical diagnostic tests.”

The Arizona bioscience startups representing the 10th cohort of the Flinn Foundation Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program are developing innovative products and devices to better treat cancer, improve mental health, provide long-lasting refrigeration of blood and medicine, and more efficiently and safely move patients.

The six early-stage firms competitively selected for the 2023 program include two companies each from Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson.

Over the next year, the program participants will receive $30,000 in funding, a personalized learning plan with other support services facilitated by the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio), and invitations to exclusive gatherings of Arizona bioscience and policy leaders as well as convenings with fellow entrepreneurs.

Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications