citybiz+ RS Biotherapeutics Raises More Funds to Advance Cannabis-based Therapy for Lung Diseases

RS BioTherapeutics, which aims to use cannabis to treat lung diseases, raised $100,000 last week, adding to $3 million it raised last year, according to an update on Crunchbase. The Cumberland, Md., startup has so far secured $3.8 million from investors as it advances its first product.

Founded by the trio of Bill Freas, Dustin Freas and Justin Molignoni, RS BioTherapeutics is a subsidiary of Real Science Holdco, LLC. Bill Freas helms CareVentures, a healthcare firm in Cumberland, where Dustin serves as chief development officer.

RS BioTherapeutics is led by CEO Dean Hart, a biopharmaceutical industry veteran credited with building two multibillion-dollar brands. He has held senior positions in Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Adamas Pharmaceuticals. Hart has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS in Business Management and Administration from Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business.

“Closing this round of funding is an exciting milestone which will help accelerate the growth of the company,” Molignoni, the company’s chief strategy officer, said after a funding round last year. “These funds will not only support our growing organization but also our development of RSBT-001 as we work towards an IND submission,” added Molignoni, who was among the team that identified the RSBT-001 compound.

The startup is banking on RSBT-001, a nebulized, semi-synthetic, cannabidiolic acid complex. The compound aims to arrest the progression of both acute and chronic pulmonary inflammation related to multiple respiratory diseases — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, SARS-COV-2 including Covid-19, cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchitis and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

A recent study “supports the theory that RSBT-001 can reduce the harmful effects of an overstimulated immune system,” said Molignoni. The proof-of-concept study — conducted by RS BioTherapeutics’ development partner Synthonics, of Blacksburg, Va., and West Virginia’s Marshall University — suggests that RSBT-001 reduces cytokine level. Marshall is to conduct another study to evaluate RSBT-001’s effects on pulmonary inflammation.

Synthonics, cofounded by Thomas Piccariello, Ph.D., is a privately-held specialty pharmaceutical company. Piccariello serves as its president and chief science officer.

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Last week, RS BioTherapeutics also revealed a plan to open a manufacturing plant in the McHenry Business Park in Garrett County.

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“We have a shell. That is exactly what this is,” said Hart. “We are going to fill up this shell with some top-of-the-line, credible equipment that is really going to set the standard for cultivation and manufacturing within the pharmaceutical industry for botanical-based products.” At full capacity, the plant could employ up to 100 people.

Last August, RS BioTherapeutics said it would build a biotherapeutics cultivation and manufacturing site in the Cumberland area, and named Jeremy Plumb as its chief cultivation officer. Plumb was previously the director of production science at Groundworks Industries, an Oregon cannabis company, and its portfolio brand, Pruf Cultivar, which specializes in controlled environment agriculture. Plumb also has served as a cannabis policy advisor to members of the U.S. Congress.