A Cortado Conversation with CorriXR Therapeutics CEO Deborah Moorad

Cortado is thrilled to invest in CorriXR Therapeutics, an early-stage biotech company commercializing a platform gene editing technology with a first-use case in oncology. The novel approach seeks to inhibit cancer cells’ ability to develop resistance to traditional cancer treatments. Drug resistance results when diseases become tolerant to pharmaceutical treatments, making them less effective. You’re probably most familiar with this concept regarding antibiotics and certain types of bacteria being able to develop antibiotic resistance. Cancers also can develop resistance to traditional therapies like chemo and radiation; one study published by the National Institute of Health in 2020 claims that drug resistance is responsible for over 90% of deaths in cancer patients receiving traditional chemo or novel targeted drugs. If you can slow or stop a cancer’s ability to develop resistance, you give the standard-of-care treatments a better chance to do their job. Doing this effectively could have a tremendous impact on the more than 1 million cancer patients going through chemo in the US every year.

CorriXR Therapeutics is the first spinout of ChristianaCare, a large Delaware-based healthcare system, and its Gene Editing Institute. So, how did a Delaware-based startup end up in Cortado’s portfolio? Cortado’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program provides outstanding entrepreneurs (who have previously had successful exits) the opportunity to find their next entrepreneurial gig. Deborah Moorad is one of those outstanding entrepreneurs. After exiting Nature Technology Corporation in 2022, Deborah joined the team at Cortado and sourced and led diligence on the CorriXR deal. Deborah eventually joined the CorriXR team as CEO, and Cortado invested in the company.

Read on for a Q&A with Deborah about her background, why she chose to invest in the next stage of her career in CorriXR, and how she’s leveraging resources in Oklahoma to help ensure the company’s success.

Q: Can you share the origins of your interest in a biotech career?

A: My early exposure to medicine and research through my grandfather, who was involved with Shrine Hospital, sparked my interest in healthcare. I always felt drawn to a career in medicine, and I was supported by my family’s encouragement. In medical school, I discovered my passion for patents and advancing medicine through intellectual property. This led me to transition from pursuing a career as a physician to working with biotech startups and emerging technologies. Collaborating with researchers like local neuro oncologist Dr. James Battiste and Nature Technology Corporation CSO Dr. Jim Williams, and solving complex health system issues, has been incredibly rewarding and fuels my ongoing passion for science and research.

Q: What are some hard-learned lessons in biotech you wish you knew earlier?

A: Biotech’s rapidly evolving nature requires flexibility and the ability to pivot. The journey, including the challenges, contributes significantly to success. Embracing failure and learning from it is vital. Each experience, even if difficult, is a part of growth and development in this field.

Q: Can you describe your journey and success with Nature Technology Corporation?

A: I joined Nature Technology Corporation (NTC) following a chance reconnection. My role involved transitioning NTC from a service-oriented company to a technology leader, capitalizing on their cutting-edge technologies like Nanoplasmid™ and HyperGRO™. My responsibilities varied widely, from laboratory work to strategic negotiations. Under my leadership, NTC experienced significant growth, leading to a high-value acquisition. This success was a team effort, and I am grateful to the NTC leadership for their trust in me as CEO.

Q: What drew you to the EIR position with Cortado Ventures, and how has it influenced you?

A: Following NTC’s acquisition, I wanted to remain engaged in biotech and contribute to my community. The EIR role at Cortado Ventures was a perfect fit, allowing me to be part of a team committed to making a difference. This experience has provided me with invaluable insights into the transactional side of biotech and furthered my personal and professional growth.

Q: How did you discover CorriXR Therapeutics, and what convinced you it was a promising opportunity?

A: My introduction to CorriXR Therapeutics came through a colleague at the Bio International Conference. The technology’s vast potential in oncology and other fields immediately struck me as an exceptional opportunity. The synergy between my background and CorriXR’s scientific focus was evident, and I was excited to take on the role of CEO for such a promising venture.

Q: Could you explain the science behind CorriXR in simple terms?

A: CorriXR specializes in gene editing, primarily focusing on oncology. Our technology targets specific genes in cancer cells, disrupting their survival mechanisms. This enhances the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments, potentially leading to more successful outcomes.

Q: What do others say is your greatest strength as a CEO?

A: People often mention my ability to build and maintain relationships. I prioritize strong connections with colleagues, partners, and stakeholders, leveraging these relationships to foster change and innovation.

Q: What drives you, and how do you define success at the end of your career?

A: My motivation stems from a desire to make a difference and help others. Collaborating with researchers and being part of a community that advances science and technology is incredibly fulfilling. Success for me is measured by the impact I’ve had on others’ lives, the progress made in science, and the growth of our community.

Cody Merrill is an experienced health-tech startup executive and workforce-tech founder currently serving as a Venture Executive at Cortado Ventures while launching his next company Personifyze.AI, which crafts AI Personas for influential creators that convert passive followers to big-ticket purchasers. Cody is also the host of the Midcon Markup podcast and the visionary behind the annual Midcon VC Summit.

At Cortado Ventures, we invest in Pre-seed through Series A startups with a focus on transportation/logistics, life sciences, and energy transition. If you are a Midcontinent startup or looking to invest in these startups, contact us to learn more.