Terpenoid Therapeutics secures private, NIH financing for drug development

University of Iowa News Release

Terpenoid Therapeutics Inc., a University of Iowa spinout company based in Coralville, Iowa, has secured nearly $2.5 million in both private investments as well as grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance cancer drug candidates toward commercialization.

The company raised $1.5 million in (Series A) private financing from a group of Iowa investors led by Iowa First Capital Fund II, L.P., of Cedar Rapids. In addition, the company recently was awarded a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer grant and a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research from the NIH. Together these grants total $946,000.

Drug development at Terpenoid is based on research from the UI departments of chemistry, pharmacology and internal medicine and Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. Raymond J. Hohl, M.D., and David F. Wiemer (below, right), UI faculty members who have been interdisciplinary research collaborators for 15 years, and two of their former students, Jeffrey D. Neighbors and Andrew J. Wiemer, founded the company.

The two new NIH grants will provide important funding to advance Terpenoid’s projects, but the Series A investments are absolutely critical as well,” said Ray Hohl (left), currently serving as Terpenoid’s president and CEO. “These private investments allow the company essential flexibility to explore new facets of our lead compounds quickly.

The grants also provide important validation of the Terpenoid goals by external scientific panels. To date, Terpenoid has received a total of four of these highly competitive NIH awards and has several other proposals currently under review.

Terpenoid has been working with the University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) to commercialize discoveries made at the UI. The company has been a tenant at the new BioVentures Center in Coralville since it opened last year. It currently employees four people, but the new funding will allow significant expansion of the research team.

The company has two broad drug development projects, both aimed at treating different types of cancer and based on issued patents. The first study is directed at enzyme targets within the cholesterol metabolic pathway, and is intended to treat metastatic bone disease associated with prostate and breast cancer as well as multiple myeloma. The second study is being developed to treat brain cancers such as glioblastoma multiforme and is based on a natural product lead.

“We believe drugs derived from both of these projects have strong potential to improve outcomes for patients with these diseases, and will improve their quality of care,” said Jeff Neighbors, a founder of Terpenoid and senior scientist in the Terpenoid labs.

Pam York, the executive director of the UIRF, said, “Terpenoid has an exciting portfolio of potential drugs based on patents issued to the UI Research Foundation and then licensed exclusively to the company. Their success in securing private investments as well as non-dilutive capital is truly remarkable in this difficult economic time.”

The Terpenoid team has expertise in chemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology and pharmaceutical development. Hohl is associate chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. David Wiemer is chair of the Department of Chemistry in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Both are members of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Pharmacology at the UI.

The NIH Small Business Technology Transfer program requires that a small business formally collaborate with a research institution, and so continued collaboration between Terpenoid and academic labs at the UI is planned. The NIH Small Business Innovation Research program does not require such collaboration, but allows it as well.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500