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MU cancer scientists form new company with international pharmaceutical firm

University of Missouri leaders celebrated a nanomedicine milestone today as they announced the creation of a new drug development company. The new company forms a partnership between university researchers and an international pharmaceutical firm to advance testing of a potential cancer treatment created at MU.

Shasun Pharmaceuticals Ltd., one of the world's leading suppliers of ibuprofen, formed the new company in partnership with MU nanomedicine experts Kattesh Katti, PhD, and Raghuraman Kannan, PhD. The scientists are developing a promising prostate cancer treatment that uses gold nanoparticles they created at the university. The new company will continue research and testing that is required for the treatment to receive approval for use in humans.

"MU brings many strengths to this new partnership, which will allow us to clinically translate the unique nanotechnology developed by Drs. Katti and Kannan," said Abhaya Kumar, a founding director of Shasun. "Everything we need for developing this product for use in patients is at the University of Missouri."

Katti and Kannan have studied their new therapy for treating late-stage prostate cancer for more than five years. Their efficacy studies in mice with prostate tumors have demonstrated an unprecedented 85 percent reduction in tumor volume after administering a single dose of their radioactive gold nanoparticle. They have observed little or no toxic side effects as a result of the injected dose.

"This is probably the most promising result we could expect," said Andrew Kurtz, PhD, a program manager at the National Cancer Institute's Small Business Innovation Research Development Center. "The next stage would be to hopefully move things into clinical trials to see if we find the same results in humans."

The therapy will advance toward human testing with support from a $1.5 million initial investment by Shasun. The money will help MU hire scientists and conduct further laboratory studies. If the therapy is approved for humans, patients at MU's hospitals and clinics could be among the first to benefit from the cancer treatment.

"In addition to offering hope to patients, the partnership with Shasun reflects MU's commitment to supporting high-tech companies that will create jobs and enhance our quality of life in Missouri and beyond," said Robert Duncan, PhD, vice chancellor for research at MU.

MU business development specialists helped Katti and Kannan form a company, Nanoparticle Biochem Inc. (NBI), to pursue commercialization opportunities for the scientists' nanotechnology discoveries. Shasun joined NBI to form the new company, Shasun NBI, which is housed in MU's Life Science Business Incubator. MU, NBI and Shasun could someday share royalties from the prostate cancer treatment.

"Shasun is a perfect partner to hopefully bring MU's promising new cancer therapy to a world market," said Michael Nichols, PhD, vice president of research and economic development for the University of Missouri System. "Universities like MU need strong commercial collaborators, especially in medicine, because it typically takes hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade to take a potential treatment for patients from the laboratory to the clinic."

Prostate cancer is the second most deadly cancer in men. The American Cancer Society estimates that 217,730 people in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and 32,050 U.S. residents die annually from the disease. One in six U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.

In 2005, Katti received a prostate cancer research grant that distinguished MU as one of 12 universities to participate in the National Cancer Institute's Nanotechnology Platform Partnership. The grant established MU as a leader in advancing nanomedicine by uniting a variety of biomedical research resources across campus. For example, the MU Research Reactor, the most powerful university reactor in the world, is one of only a few sites able to produce the radioactive gold nanoparticles created by Katti and Kannan.

"MU's proactive support of our research has allowed Dr. Kannan and I to join Shasun in taking this important step toward helping cancer patients," Katti said. "This kind of culture has put MU on the map as a destination for world-class science that attracts international attention and investment."


Contact: Laura Gerding
University of Missouri School of Medicine

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