How Did EpicentRx Become EpicentRx?

Jan 20, 2023

¡Más que una Radio!

The names of companies, especially biotech companies, are often non-intuitive, hard to pronounce and even harder to spell, sometimes on purpose, making it next to impossible to figure out the general focus of these companies let alone exactly what it is they do—consider Gilead, AbCellera, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Alexion, Idexx, Irazu, Codiak Biosciences, Baxalta, Acquient, and Boehringer Ingelheim. EpicentRx is no exception in that regard. So, how did we arrive at this specific name (inquiring minds want to know)? Well, here’s the short version: the original name of the company was RadioRx, which led to some actual confusion about whether we were a radio station, specifically an FM radio station, 99.7 on the dial in El Salvador, whose slogan was “¡Más que una Radio!”. Lol all you want, but this was one of the reasons—or excuses— to change the name.

The long version is that we licensed a drug called ABDNAZ circa 2010 from the defense contractor, ATK Thiokol, now Northrop Grumman. ABDNAZ was thought to be a radiosensitizer, a drug, which increases the susceptibility of tumors to the lethal effects of radiation. Hence the name RadioRx was born— “radio” for radiation— and the somewhat unwieldy chemical acronym, ABDNAZ, which stands for alpha bromo dinitroazetidine, was shortened to the slightly more user-friendly, RRx-001, for RadioRx-001.

However, in radio parlance, it turned out that ABDNAZ/RRx-001 was more than just a ‘one-hit wonder’. Much more, in fact. It was a radiosensitizer with single-agent anticancer activity, yes, but also a chemosensitizer, an anti-infective, an anti-inflammatory, an anti-ischemic, and a radioprotector, meaning it decreased the toxicity of radiation to normal tissues but not to tumors.

This was unexpected. The data was the data, and presumably the data didn’t lie, but we were at a loss to explain how the drug was so versatile, which was a problem because it made RRx-001 sound, well, too good to be true— especially to our investors who openly wondered whether we were “drinking the Kool-Aid” and drawing incorrect conclusions as a result. We were sure the answer was no but had to do more to prove it.

Much later the eureka moment came when we found out that RRx-001 was a direct inhibitor of the NLRP3 inflammasome, a large protein complex whose activation is linked to a long list of conditions from cancer to diabetes, atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. However, at the time, all we knew was that RRx-001 worked, but not exactly how—or why—it worked.

For RRx-001 to be taken seriously as a therapeutic, we needed to identify the mechanistic how and why, and we set out to do that in earnest with several laboratories across the world. For a while that became our epicenter or primary focus—to fully understand and elucidate the mechanism(s) of action and molecular target(s) of RRx-001. Interestingly, the FDA was laissez-faire about the mechanism—what they really cared about for RRx-001 to enter the clinic, rightly, was whether it was safe or not. Fortunately, to date, RRx-001 has been well tolerated and not associated with any dose-limiting toxicities.

In any event, back then, epicenter, meaning exact center or ground zero, was a word that resonated. RRx-001, after all, was at the exact center of what we did. Its closest chemical relative was an explosive – trinitroazetidine or TNAZ, a replacement for dynamite – so epicenter or ground zero was applicable from that perspective too. In addition, RRx-001 was also found to have epigenetic inhibitory properties, meaning that it reactivated certain beneficial genes. Based on all these, we came up with the name EpicentRx, and got approval on it from the higher-ups, but put off final decision – because of all the paperwork that was involved to make a change. What tipped the scales in favor of EpicentRx was the name overlap with the El Salvadoran radio station and the fact that RadioRx also made it sound like we were a radiopharmaceutical company, which didn’t sit well either and led to some confusion.

See the figure below for a side-to-side comparison of the RadioRx and the EpicentRx logos. Which is better? We’ll let you decide.

For those who find EpicentRx hard to pronounce–and FYI we say it like Epicentrix, not Epicent (pause) Rx–we are sorry for any phonetic confusion and want you to know, to paraphrase the artist formerly known as Prince, (we were after all the pharmaceutical company formerly known as RadioRx) that we “never meant to cause you any sorrow…never meant to cause you any pain.”

Figure 1. The old RadioRx logo and the new EpicentRx one.