VUMC helps develop first COVID-19 pill

Friday, October 8, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 41

U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Merck& Co. is seeking authorization for the first oral antiviral pill to treat COVID-19, after a Vanderbilt University Medical Center clinical trial showed it cut the risk of hospitalization or death in half when given to high-risk people during infection.

The drug, known as molnupiravir, was first shown to be efficacious against coronaviruses including the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, by investigators in the lab of Mark Denison, M.D., at VUMC and their colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In November 2019, Denison’s group reported that EIDD-1931 blocked replication of multiple coronaviruses in laboratory tests and prevented the viruses from developing resistance against it. The work was conducted in conjunction with UNC scientists Ralph Baric, Ph.D., Timothy Sheahan, Ph.D., and their colleagues.

Andrea Pruijssers, Ph.D., former lead antiviral scientist in Denison’s lab who is now at Merck, provided the first evidence of its potent activity against SARS-CoV-2.

If the clinical trial results are confirmed and supported by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review, “we believe this could have a major impact to treat and prevent disease, not just with COVID-19, but also with other human coronaviruses or future emerging coronaviruses,” Denison says.

Denison’s group also contributed to the development of remdesivir, the first drug approved by the FDA for use in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Developer purchases The Factory at Franklin

The Nashville office of Holladay Properties, led by Allen Arender, has purchased The Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road, for $56 million and are investing much more into the former stove factory to create what the new owners say will be a national model for adaptive reuse of early 20th century industrial structures.

Madison Wenzler of the Wenzler-Havens team of Cushman & Wakefield’s Nashville office represented Holladay Properties in the sale, and John Haynes of the Bradley law firm provided legal counsel.

Built in 1929, The Factory is a complex of 10 industrial buildings that was originally constructed for stove manufacturer Allen Manufacturing Co. and was later home to a succession of manufacturers: Dortch Stove Works, Magic Chef and Jamison Bedding Company. In 1996, Franklin businessman Calvin Lehew purchased the property and converted it into a retail and entertainment complex.

Joining Holladay Properties in the redevelopment of The Factory is Arender’s longtime development partner Ronnie Wenzler, an executive director of Cushman & Wakefield.

Newsweek names Reliant state’s best small bank

For the second consecutive year, Brentwood-based Reliant Bank has been named Best Small Bank in Tennessee in Newsweek’s ranking of America’s Best Banks 2022.

The ranking recognizes the financial institutions that best serve their customers’ needs in each state, as well as the overall health of the bank, customer service performance, digital features, branch presence, account and loan options and interest rate offerings and fees.

VUMC awarded $31.7M for Alzheimer’s research

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a five-year, $31.7 million grant by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, to harmonize research data gathered on human subjects in scores of disparate studies of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

ADRD is studied from various angles, and from one human research cohort to the next the data are collected in different ways and at different scales, with many data points conforming to ad hoc definitions.

Built attracts $125M Series D investment

Nashville’s Built Technologies, a construction finance platform, has announced $125 million in Series D funding at a valuation of $1.5 billion.

Lead investor TCV, along with Brookfield Technology Partners, 9Yards Capital, XYZ Venture Capital and HighSage Ventures, will join existing investors.

$1.58T is spent annually in the U.S. construction industry yet it is one of the least digitized industries in the world. Focused on becoming the financial operating system of the construction industry and empowering all key stakeholders to be more successful, Built has evolved from initially serving financial institutions active in construction lending to also serving other players in the construction ecosystem over the past two years.

Kepro wraps up purchase of eQHealth

Nashville’s Kepro has announced today that it has completed the acquisition of eQHealth Solutions, LLC.

This acquisition will expand Kepro’s population health management and technology solution portfolios.

Synergy Advisors, LLC served as financial adviser to Kepro. Coker Capital, a division of Fifth Third Securities, served as financial adviser to eQHealth Solutions. Jones Walker LLP and Lyle Johnson LLC provided legal services to eQHealth Solutions and Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP provided legal services to Kepro.

Currax celebrates Brentwood HQ opening

Currax Pharmaceuticals, LLC, a specialty biopharmaceutical company dedicated to expanding access to clinically differentiated, underappreciated medicines – both branded and generic – recently held a grand opening celebration for its new Brentwood headquarters.

Brentwood Mayor Rhea Little, III and Vice Mayor Nelson Andrews were among the prominent community members, employees, industry leaders, investors, and academics in attendance at the event.

Housing affordability ‘least improved’ here

First American Financial Corporation, a global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, has released the July 2021 First American Real House Price Index.

Nashville was listed as the top market where affordability has improved the least since its prior peak, 13% from peak.

Baltimore was No. 1 as the market where affordability has improved the most since its peak, 58% from peak.

The RHPI measures the price changes of single-family properties throughout the U.S. adjusted for the impact of income and interest rate changes on consumer house-buying power over time at national, state and metropolitan area levels. Because the RHPI adjusts for house-buying power, it also serves as a measure of housing affordability.

Name change, $75M investment for Wayspring

Wayspring, formerly Nashville’s axialHealthcare, announced its new name and a $75 million investment from Valtruis, Centene Corporation, CareSource, HLM Venture Partners and other leading investors.

Wayspring will use the capital to scale its value-based care solution, a full-risk medical home model for substance use disorder.

Using data analytics to drive high-touch, high-impact outreach to the most at-risk individuals, Wayspring’s SUD home model delivers community-based peer support, behavioral health services, and primary care. Wayspring also partners with existing provider networks to refer members to high-quality treatment, facilitate care transitions and improve adherence to evidence-based medicine.

Since launching its member-facing SUD management solutions with three health plans in 2020, Wayspring has driven significant savings through the reduction of inpatient treatment readmissions, hospital admissions and emergency department visits.

Sarah Cannon opens drug development center

Nashville-based Sarah Cannon recently opened its newest drug development unit in collaboration with Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute and The University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Lake Nona, Florida.

The unit, located in the Sarah Cannon | UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center, is led by Cesar Augusto Perez, M.D., a recognized expert in Phase 1 oncology research. The first of its kind in Lake Nona, the DDU focuses exclusively on oncology clinical trials at the earliest phases of research and was designed to meet the specialized needs of patients seeking advanced cancer treatment options.

The first patient was treated on a clinical trial at the new unit earlier this month.

TERRA announces pact with Philadelphia

TERRA’s Done with IT program and Digitunity have a new partnership with to collect, refurbish and return even more devices to Philadelphia residents.

Nashville-based TERRA, The Electronics Recycling, Reuse Alliance, will help the city close the digital divide.

In 2020, the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia launched the PHLDonateTech program which accepts donated computers and tablets for families and people in need across the city.

Done with IT offers a convenient, secure, mail-in option for laptops and tablets. The shipping and refurbishment costs for the first 400 mail-in orders are being sponsored by Santander Bank.

To protect the personal data of individuals that send in their equipment, all hard drives and other storage media are either wiped and/or physically destroyed by Magnum Computer Recycling (a R2 Certified e-waste recycling and ITAD service provider) before they are refurbished and returned to service by the Electronic Access Foundation.

Tivity launches share buyback program

Tivity Health, based in Franklin, has announced its board of directors has authorized a $100 million share repurchase program.

The timing and actual number of shares repurchased will be determined by the board of directors based on an ongoing assessment of the capital needs of the business, the market price of the company’s stock, general business and market conditions, and alternative investment opportunities.

Under the repurchase program, repurchases can be made from time to time using a variety of methods, including pursuant to a Rule 10b5-1 plan, open market purchases, block trades and privately negotiated transactions, all in compliance with the rules of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and other applicable legal requirements.