Aviara is leading the development of small molecule integrin inhibitors that modulate the activity of stem cells and inflammatory cells.

Aviara’s lead clinical candidate, AVA4746, is being developed for the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells to the peripheral blood for collection and subsequent autologous transplantation in patients with leukemia or lymphoma. In addition to AVA4746, Aviara is also developing a portfolio of small-molecule antagonists against a variety of integrin targets involved in the modulation of cell therapies and inflammatory disease such as minimal residual disease in cancer, cardiac stem cell transplant, dry eye disease and inflammatory bowel disease.


Aviara has a collaboration with the Texas Heart Institute (THI) to explore the roles of integrins and other adhesion molecules in the development and trafficking of stem cells. Aviara and THI have entered into a joint discovery, development and cross-license agreement that provides access to THI research for the purpose of further development and commercialization.



George W. Holland, PhD, Cofounder, President and CEO
Prior to co-founding Aviara, George served 9 years at Encysive Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (formerly Texas Biotechnology Corp.) where he was Vice President of Chemical Sciences.  Previous to Encysive, Dr. Holland was for 26 years with Hoffmann-La Roche (Nutley) where he served both as senior therapeutic area management and leader of medicinal/synthetic chemistry groups working on a broad range of synthetic and therapeutic targets.  At Encysive he was involved in all phases of the drug discovery and development effort that resulted in the regulatory approval and commercialization of the endothelin antagonist Thelin™ in North America, Europe and Australia.  Dr. Holland has more than 36 publications and 50 patents.  He earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the Iowa State University and conducted postdoctoral studies at Purdue University with Nobel Laureate Herbert C. Brown.


Richard A.F. Dixon, PhD, Cofounder, and Chairman of BOD
Richard is a cofounder of Aviara and is Director of Molecular Cardiology Research, Texas Heart Institute, Houston, Texas. Formerly he was a Founder, Director, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Encysive Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Prior to that, he held various management positions, including head of the molecular biology department at Merck and Co. where his basic research efforts focused on the molecular biology and pharmacology of intracellular signaling and cell trafficking, leading to become the first group to clone and characterize a G-protein coupled receptor, the beta2 adrenergic receptor (resulting in 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Kobilka and Lefkowitz).  He conducted postdoctoral research Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with the Nobel Laureate Daniel Nathans. He and his research groups have produced 10 NCEs which have entered into human testing, one of which has led to the approved drug Thelin™. He has also been directly involved with 4 other NDA programs that have resulted in the approved drugs Argatroban™, Crixivan™, Singular™, and Zocor™. While at Encysive, Dr. Dixon was involved in an IPO, several public stock offerings, and PIPEs which raised more than $340M over the 18 year history of Encysive.  He is currently Director of the Wafic Said Molecular Cardiology Research Laboratories at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) in Houston, Texas, where he is involved in discovery and development of small molecule, gene and cell therapies for heart, lung and vascular diseases.  At THI, he directs a large medicinal chemistry group which is actively involved in the discovery of small molecule therapeutic and diagnostic agents for application in regenerative medicine.

Patrick Ward, Cofounder and Director
Patrick is the former President and COO of Ocusoft, Inc., a specialty ophthalmic pharmaceutical distributor.  At Ocusoft, he was responsible for management of the organization with over 120 employees and a $30 million operating budget.  He was also responsible for product development, manufacturing and regulatory affairs for a variety of pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutritional supplement products. 

Prior to joining Ocusoft, he was Executive Director of Business development at Encysive Pharmaceuticals where he spent 13 years in business development, finance and marketing, with responsibility for strategic financial planning, new business deal activities, licensing transactions and alliance management.  He was also involved in the development and commercialization of two approved drugs – Argatroban™ and Thelin™ – in the U.S. and Europe.  Prior to joining Encysive, he was with Owen Healthcare (now Cardinal Health) where he served in multiple roles in hospital pharmacy management.  He received a B.S. in Pharmacy from The University of Houston and an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of St. Thomas.


Board of Directors

Richard A.F. Dixon, PhD
George Holland, PhD
Patrick Ward

Consultants and Advisors

Peder Jensen, M.D.

Peder Jensen, M.D. – Bay Way Consultants

Dr. Jensen has over 24 years of global drug development experience in both pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and has been responsible for more than 40 new drug approvals in the U.S., Europe and Japan during his career. Dr. Jensen´┐Żs experience includes over 20 years with Schering-Plough Corporation, a global pharmaceutical company, and then Merck & Co., Inc. after the merger of Schering-Plough with Merck in 2009. Dr. Jensen most recently served at Schering-Plough as Corporate Senior Vice President, and General Manager, R&D for Japan and Asia/Pacific from 2006 to 2010. He has also served at British Biotech plc and Chiron Corporation in clinical development executive positions, and earlier in his career at CIBA-GEIGY Limited. He is a member of the boards of directors of Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. and Five-Prime Therapeutics, Inc., and has previously served as a member of the board of directors of BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Jensen received an M.D. degree from the University of Copenhagen.

Rosemary MazanetRosemary Mazanet, M.D., Ph.D.  
Dr. Mazanet is a life sciences executive with management and drug development experience. She has served as CEO and as a Director for several public and private companies, as well as Chief Scientific Officer for Oracle Partners, LP, a life sciences investment firm.  Prior to these roles, she led clinical oncology at Amgen, Inc. from 1993-1998 where she was principally involved in the development of Neupogen®.   Dr. Mazanet received her MD and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and trained in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Oncology at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, both in Boston.

James MacDonald

James MacDonald, Ph.D. – Synergy Partners

Dr. MacDonald has led the preclinical development of dozens of new molecular entities during more than 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the compounds that came forward under his leadership in Toxicology at Merck, including Primaxin®, Vasotec®, Mevacor®, and Zocor®, are now important human medicines with global registration.  As executive VP of preclinical development at Schering-Plough, he directed the activities surrounding the movement of new potential therapeutic entities from discovery research into and through the development process and brought forward several important new medicines through registration for global marketing including Asmanex®, Nasonex®, PEG-Intron®, Noxafil®, and Victrelis®.
Catherine Strader

Catherine Strader, Ph.D. – Synergy Partners

Dr. Strader has more than 30 years of pharmaceutical R&D experience, with expertise ranging from the selection of molecular targets through clinical proof of concept.  She has held executive leadership positions at both Merck and Schering-Plough with responsibility for drug discovery and early development.  Catherine has successfully guided more than 50 compounds through the early pipeline at both companies, including Emend®, Victrelis®, Zontivity® and MK-8931 for Alzheimer's disease. Catherine currently consults with biopharmaceutical and venture-backed companies on both the strategic and technical aspects of building and maintaining a pipeline, including translation of compounds through discovery and early development, realization of an appropriate risk profile for the portfolio, and design of productive multi-partner collaborations.
Jackson Gibbs

Jackson B. Jay Gibbs, Ph.D. – Synergy Partners
Dr. Gibbs specializes in Oncology and Pharmacology R&D. During his 30 year pharmaceutical career, Jay held senior management positions at both AstraZeneca and Merck and led programs ranging from target validation through IND filing, particularly in the area of signal transduction.  He has deep experience in leading external alliances and licensing efforts and was Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine for 15 years. Jay publishes and speaks extensively about oncology drug discovery and has served on external advisory boards and strategic committees for several disease-focused foundations.  Jay currently uses his broad knowledge of cancer biology, his large network of collaborators, and his understanding of the interfaces between industry, academia, and non-profit foundations to support clients in the biopharmaceutical industry. Jay holds a B.A. in Biology and Chemistry from Bucknell and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Virginia. 

John PiwinskiJohn J. Piwinski, Ph.D. –Synergy Partners. 
Dr. Piwinski has more than 30 years of experience in medicinal chemistry and structure-based drug design. He received his B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Yale.  As head of Chemical Research for Schering-Plough from 1999 to 2008, John had responsibility for chemistry drug discovery across all therapeutic areas.  In 2008 he was appointed head of Schering-Plough’s Cambridge, MA discovery research site, where he directed the site's efforts in medicinal chemistry, affinity-based screening and optimization, bioNMR, protein science and biologics. John is the author of 150 published research papers, abstracts and approved U.S. patents. He received the North Jersey American Chemical Society (NJACS) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, and currently consults in the areas of medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, including small molecule lead discovery and optimization.












Our research focuses on modulating the activity of integrins.   Integrins are a large family of adhesion molecules that are found on the surfaces of nearly all cells, mediating a wide variety of physiological processes, including cell adhesion, migration, survival and differentiation.   Integrins play a key role in the inflammatory and immune response to disease.  Consequently, integrins are involved in a diverse range of diseases, including cancer, infection, thrombosis and autoimmune disorders.

We are also exploring new ways of modulating the effects of stem cells and the stem cell niche.  A stem cell is a unique cell that can proliferate and differentiate into other cell types with specialized functions such as those of muscle, brain, blood or skin. In adults, they contribute to the repair of damaged tissue by regenerating those cell types necessary for proper organ function.  The stem cell niche is the microenvironment located within the bone marrow where the stem cells reside.  The niche supports the maintenance of stem cell identity and regulates the function of stem cells.

AVA4746 – Hematopoietic Stem Cell Mobilization

Aviara’s lead clinical candidate, AVA4746, is being developed for use as a mobilization agent in cancer patients undergoing autologous hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation.  Each year, an estimated 35,000 autologous stem cell transplants are performed worldwide.  HSC are the stem cells that mature to form blood and immune cells such as erythrocytes, leukocytes, etc.  They are produced in the bone marrow, where they egress into the circulation and are ultimately responsible for the constant renewal of blood – the production of billions of new blood cells each day.  But because only a small amount of HSC circulate in the peripheral blood at any time, it is necessary to use mobilization agents to drive them to the peripheral circulation where they can be collected for transplantation.

Recent research has shown a strong role for integrin antagonists to be used in the role of HSC mobilization.  Aviara has conducted multiple studies of AVA4746 in preclinical models of HSC mobilization, results of which demonstrate a clear opportunity for the use of AVA4746 in HSC mobilization.  The development goal of the program is to increase the yield of HSC in the peripheral blood so that fewer collection procedures are needed to collect the required number of HSC needed for transplantation. 


Cell Mediated Drug Resistance and Minimal Residual Disease

Another area of particular interest for integrin antagonists is in the area of cell mediated drug resistance (CAM-DR).  CAM-DR is developed when some cancerous cells remain sequestered and viable in the bone marrow and not affected by chemotherapy.  These cells have been shown to act as the source for a relapse of the cancer, referred to as Minimal Residual Disease (MRD).  We believe the use of integrin antagonists may play a key role in overcoming chemotherapy resistance and disease relapse by inhibiting the bond between the cancerous cells and the bone marrow niche, making the cancerous cells more susceptible to chemotherapeutic agents.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a broad term that describes conditions with chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.  The α4β7 integrin is considered to be the adhesion molecule principally involved in inflammation of the intestinal lining.  Recently, a human monoclonal antibody to the α4β7 integrin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, providing further validation of targeting the α4β7 integrin clinically.

It is estimated that as many as 1.4 million persons in the United States suffer from IBD, and IBD is one of the five most prevalent gastrointestinal disease burdens in the United States.  Aviara is developing an oral, small molecule inhibitor of the α4β7 integrin as an alternative to injectable biologic products currently used in IBD.  The market for pharmaceuticals indicated for the treatment of IBD and symptoms is estimated to reach $7.70 billion by 2017.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (DES) or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common ocular surface disease affecting tens of millions of people worldwide.  It is one of the leading reasons for patients seeking treatment of symptoms of ocular discomfort and visual disturbance, and commonly leads to problems with activities that require sustained visual attention such as reading and driving.  One of the mechanisms underlying the symptoms of DES is chronic inflammation of the ocular surface caused by an integrin-mediated response.  Recent studies using a topically applied integrin antagonist demonstrated a significant reversal in corneal epithelial damage, a key driver of the chronic symptoms associated with dry eye.

With the worldwide market opportunity for dry eye treatments being in excess of $1 billion, we believe a topically applied integrin antagonist would represent a significant improvement in currently used therapies.  Aviara will be developing the topical form of AVA3486 for use in the treatment of DES with the help of a corporate partner specializing in diseases of the eye.









December 14, 2014 - Aviara to Present at the Biotech Showcase 2015 Annual Conference








For information, please contact:

Aviara Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
3331 Green Tree Park
Houston, TX  77007























©  2014 Aviara Pharmaceuticals, Inc.