CET signs Avatar BioSci as New Tenant for Life Sciences Facility

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (July 14, 2004) – Cumberland Emerging Technologies (CET) and Avatar BioSci, Inc. have signed an agreement making Avatar one of the growing number of tenants to lease space in CET’s downtown Life Sciences Facility, adjacent to the Union Station Hotel.

Avatar is a privately held company formed to advance drug development in infectious disease by identifying genes in “host cells” which are targets of the disease, and therefore essential to the infection process. Identification of these genes allows Avatar to block or protect them rather than try to debilitate the disease directly, thereby halting the disease and reducing or eliminating its ability to mutate and resist treatment. The methodology for this identification, called “gene-trapping,” was developed by Don Rubin, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Microbiology & Immunology at Vanderbilt University, and co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Avatar. His methodology was based upon the “gene-trap” tool developed by another Avatar co-founder, H. Earl Ruley, Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Vanderbilt.

“We are pleased to welcome Avatar to our Life Sciences Facility,” said A.J. Kazimi, CEO of Cumberland Pharmaceuticals and CET. “They are exactly the type of tenant we had in mind when we developed the Center, and we are excited to provide laboratory and equipment infrastructure to support the promising research they are conducting.”

Avatar’s proprietary technology allows for very timely, cost-efficient target selection, enabling them to examine not only diseases such as HIV and flu, but also to investigate diseases in markets traditionally considered non-commercial by the pharmaceutical industry. Some of these markets include emerging diseases (SARS, Avian flu) and bioterrorist-caused diseases (Ebola, Marburg). Avatar has entered into collaborations with The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Georgia to use “gene-trapping” in the study of the aforementioned diseases as well as many others.

“Our technology can dramatically accelerate the time-line for drug development, allowing us to anticipate problems rather than to just react,” said Avatar CEO, Mark Germain. “Cumberland Emerging Technologies provides just the type of laboratory facility we need to further this important work.”

Cumberland Emerging Technologies Inc. (CET) is a joint initiative between Vanderbilt University, Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc, and the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC). The mission of CET (www.cet-fund.com) is to bring biomedical technologies and products conceived at Vanderbilt and other regional research centers to the commercial marketplace. CET helps manage the development and commercialization process for select projects, and provides expertise on intellectual property, regulatory, manufacturing, and marketing issues that are critical to successful new biomedical products. The shared laboratory was supported by a $100,000 Tennessee Industrial Infrastructure Program (TIIP) grant to CET and the TTDC.

Contact: Rebecca Kirkham
Lovell Communications
(615) 297-7766

Contact: Mark S. Germain
Avatar BioSci, Inc.
(914) 282-5798

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