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Qualigen-sponsored research on potential ‘holy grail’ cancer therapy at U of Louisville spawns license agreement

By David Schwartz
Published: July 28th, 2020

A University of Louisville-born invention designed to treat cancer by targeting the RAS protein has been licensed by California-based Qualigen Therapeutics Inc., which has previously sponsored research on the therapy. Qualigen plans to fund continued development at UofL and ultimately ready the new treatment for market.

When mutated, the RAS protein turns into a “stuck accelerator pedal” and leads to proliferation of cancer cells, according to UofL researcher Geoffrey Clark, who co-invented the technology with colleagues John Trent and Joe Burlison. The technology targets the protein but has little impact on healthy cells. “Normally, it gets pressed when you need to grow and then the foot comes off and the cell slows down,” said Clark, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at UofL. “When it becomes mutated, the accelerator’s jammed on, with cells continuing to grow and ultimately becoming a cancerous tumor.”

Many current non-targeted treatments, such as chemotherapy, can hurt both healthy and cancerous cells, leading to painful side effects. By some estimates, targeting this mutation could stop the growth of at least a third of human tumors.

“The patient impact could be extremely broad because RAS is involved in a lot of different cancers,” Trent said. “It’s one of the holy grails that there has been limited success in targeting.”

Trent leads the Molecular Modeling Facility at UofL Health-James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

Trent used a statewide supercomputing initiative to run through millions of cancer-fighting drug possibilities in a matter of days, resulting ub a drug that could inhibit the deregulated RAS protein. 

Qualigen holds an exclusive license to the technology through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which works with startups and industry to commercialize university-owned technologies. This license agreement builds on a sponsored research agreement with Qualigen, which has licensed other UofL technologies for fighting COVID-19 and cancer.

“Partnering on this new cancer-fighting technology is another example of the relationship we’ve developed with the University of Louisville,” said Michael Poirier, CEO of Qualigen. “We look forward to working with UofL and to advancing this important clinical program with the goal of developing an effective treatment for this unmet need.”

Source: U of L News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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