Terpenoid Therapeutics earns $224,000 in grants for cancer drug development

University of Iowa News Release

Terpenoid Therapeutics Inc., a University of Iowa spinout company based in Coralville, Iowa, has earned $224,000 in commercialization grants from the National Cancer Institute. The company was awarded two Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants, which are administered through the Small Business Administration.

Drug development at Terpenoid Therapeutics Inc. is based on research from the UI departments of Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Internal Medicine and Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. The company was founded by professors Raymond J. Hohl M.D., and David F. Wiemer who have been interdisciplinary research collaborators for well over a decade. Hohl is associate chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Wiemer is chair of the Department of Chemistry in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Both hold appointments in the Department of Pharmacology.

Hohl, Wiemer and other UI scientists with expertise in chemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology and pharmaceutical development are working with the University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) to commercialize their technology. The UIRF has funded Entrepreneur-in-Residence Randy Weiss, venture partner at Triathlon Medical Ventures in St. Louis, to work towards a first round of professional venture investment.

Terpenoid Therapeutics Inc. is the 20th tenant of the UI Technology Innovation Center business incubator and has its laboratories based in the UI Multi-Tenant Facility in Coralville.

The company has two broad drug development projects, both aimed at treating cancer. The first lead molecule is based on targets within the cholesterol metabolic pathway and is intended to treat metastatic bone disease associated with prostate and breast cancer and multiple myeloma. The second lead is being developed to treat brain cancers. “We believe drugs derived from both of these projects have the strong potential to improve outcomes for patients with these diseases, and will improve quality of care by having fewer side effects than existing agents,” says Jeff Neighbors, a founder of Terpenoid and an assistant research scientist at the UI.

Pam York, the executive director of the UIRF, said that “STTRs are critical sources of funding that fill a gap in financing between R&D and professional investment for these early stage companies. These grants can make the difference in whether or not a company gets off the ground.”

The STTR program requires that a small business formally collaborate with a research institution. Terpenoid Therapeutics will move from the Multi-Tenant Facility at the UI Oakdale Research Park to new laboratories in the UI’s new BioVentures Center business incubator facility in late 2008.

Hohl also holds the Holden Family Chair and is associate director of Translational Research and leader of the Cell Signaling and Developmental Pharmacology Program at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Wiemer is a member of the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hohl also directs the UI Roland W. Holden Family Program for Experimental Cancer Therapeutics. Hohl and Wiemer have jointly directed a Roy J. Carver Research Program of Excellence in the UI Carver College of Medicine for the past six years. Neighbors completed his doctorate under the mentorship of Professor Wiemer and serves as the principal investigator for Terpenoid Therapeutics Inc. on these STTR grants.

The UI Research Foundation, Technology Innovation Center business incubator and the UI Oakdale Research Park are programs of the IOWA Centers for Enterprise, which integrates existing economic development activities at the UI, offers a comprehensive program that promotes economic development and technology transfer, provides assistance to Iowa startups and existing Iowa businesses and communities, and helps the state of Iowa develop a creative, entrepreneurial workforce. IOWA Centers for Enterprise optimizes the flow of university intellectual property into opportunities for licensing, commercialization and business development. For more information, visit http://www.enterprise.uiowa.edu/.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 370, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242

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