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Start-up licenses U of Arizona inventions that offer systemic protection from skin cancer

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 30th, 2018

The University of Arizona has licensed two inventions developed in its Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to start-up MCR Therapeutics.

Inventors Minying Cai and Victor J. Hruby developed targeted peptides that are specific for certain melanocortin receptors, and MRC hopes to parlay those peptides into a new way for sun worshipers to achieve skin cancer prevention, as well as give doctors better tools for detection and treatment.

The selective melanotropin peptide stimulates the natural production of skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color that also provides protection against harmful ultraviolet light. In addition, melanocortin receptors are known to play a role in many other physiological arenas such as obesity, stress, cognition and mood.

For now, MCR plans to focus on skin applications – probably a good choice give the scope of the problem. Of the three million new cases diagnosed each year, more than 175,000 will be malignant melanoma, and over 9,300 people in the U.S. alone will die of the disease. 

The approach MCR is taking – stimulating a systemic production of melanin – would avoid the many limitations of sunscreen lotions, which are often applied incorrectly or incompletely and can easily wash away.

 “Furthermore, most sunscreens are only partially effective compared to natural tanning ‘pigmentation,’ which is the basis of our discovery and allows pigmentation without the sun or a tanning salon,” says Dr. Hruby.

The researchers worked with UA’s commercialization team at Tech Launch Arizona (TLA) not only in patenting the inventions but also business planning via the National Science Foundation I-Corps program. They also received TLA funding to bring their product closer to market readiness.

Source: Tech Launch Arizona

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