The Portal Member Spotlight is a Q&A format that seeks to highlight some of our member companies across our various ecosystems. This week we spoke to Cheryl Stratton, Director of cGMP Manufacturing at TRACT Therapeutics.
- Q: What does TRACT do, and what is the company’s area of focus?
A: TRACT Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotech company focusing on polyclonal regulatory T-cells (Tregs) as a therapeutic treatment. Our flagship program focuses on Tregs administered to patients undergoing a solid organ transplant to induce tolerance and prevent rejection of their transplanted organ. We are incredibly excited to start our multi-national, multi-center Phase 2 trial in living donor kidney transplant recipients along with our strategic partner, Taiwan Bio.
- Q: What is your role at TRACT, and how did you get interested in life sciences in the first place?
A: My role is the Director of cGMP Manufacturing. Ever since I was little, I loved observing the world around me. From watching the changing Northern Wisconsin foliage to setting up science experiments in school, there was always this draw to explore, test, and try to solve questions about the world around me. I had two high school teachers that further solidified that interest – the first was my biology teacher who let us dissect frogs and really understand through hands-on science. The second was my chemistry teacher, who brought things like elements, Bunsen burner flame, and the subsequent colors to the high school lab. Many other mentors along the way helped to shape the course of my career and led me to TRACT and the novel approach to immunity – from organ transplantation to autoimmune disease.
- Q: How is it being a part of the Portal ecosystem – is it good meeting people from similar companies in the same boat as you?
A: I know I speak for the entire team when I say that we have thoroughly enjoyed Portal’s atmosphere and ecosystem. Meeting other biotech companies in a city like Chicago was incredibly difficult without a central location and events to bring together the scientific community. Even Portal’s building and lab space layout are conducive to collaboration – large open spaces, desks in a collective area, and an easy way to meet other small biotech companies for potential synergy.
- Q: How do you envision your company’s contributions shaping the future of healthcare or the broader life sciences industry?
A: TRACT’s platform has the potential to revolutionize the treatment paradigm for prevention of rejection in solid organ transplants and autoimmune diseases. The current landscape for immunosuppressants is carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, and can cause secondary complications such as opportunistic infections, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer. In transplant, there have been no major advancements in the past decade. TRACT’s Treg therapy offers the potential for improved outcomes and enhanced quality of life for patients.
- Q: Are there any specific technology advancements in biotech that helped lead to the creation of the company or model?
A: Science is constantly evolving, especially in biotechnology. New cell culture techniques, new large-scale cell selection techniques, and even new understanding of basic Immunology have led to the formulation of TRACT’s current platform.
- Q: How have you seen biotech evolve over the past few years (in general, or a growing market like Chicago).
Biotechnology is continuing to grow, not only in the well-known biotech hubs, but also in up-and-coming cities like Chicago, Houston, and Pittsburgh. Specifically, cell therapy and personalized medicine has continued to expand and gain traction for patient treatments. Biotechnology innovation and its applications in the clinic will only continue to expand, especially with evolving spaces such as Portal.