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Major State Grant Accelerates Research and Development of Novel Cancer Therapy

BOCA RATON, Fla., Sept. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Florida Technology, Research and Scholarship Board recently awarded Florida Atlantic University researcher Dr. Herbert Weissbach, distinguished professor and director of the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and CHS Resources LLC (CHS), $184,294 as part of the State University Research Commercialization Assistance Grant program (SURECAG). SURECAG was established by the Florida Legislature in 2007 to promote the commercialization of university research products to enhance the state's economy and its public universities. With these funds, universities are able to promote their commercialization endeavors by securing patents, establishing startup companies, developing licensing agreements and attracting private investments.

FAU, together with CHS (which licensed this technology from FAU), submitted a proposal for Weissbach's discovery of a novel combination of agents that work to preferentially target and kill cancer cells. In addition, CHS was instrumental in providing FAU with a matching grant -- a stipulation of the SURECAG program -- for a total of $368,588 for research and development. CHS is currently developing this therapy for treatment of actinic keratosis (AK), a precancerous skin condition, and "proof-of-concept" studies are ongoing. CHS is simultaneously developing an over-the-counter skin protective agent with unique antioxidant properties.

"SURECAG is designed to create a more vital link between venture capitalists, industry and Florida's state universities," said Dr. Gary Perry, dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. "This grant is essential to support product development activities necessary to help CHS obtain approval from the FDA to perform clinical trials that will lead to drug approval."

Weissbach and his team initially identified a lead compound that in combination with an oxidizing agent or agent that generates reactive oxygen species selectively targets and kills cancer cells, but not normal cells. Based on these findings, they formulated a topical skin preparation for CHS which is currently being tested for treatment of AK. Ongoing research of this therapy is also underway in Weissbach's laboratory to determine the mechanisms of action of the drug combination, and to design and synthesize more active derivatives as potential anti-cancer agents.

"Innovation is one of the single-most important factors in determining America's future success and our ability to lead the way in discoveries that save lives and improve the quality of life," said Stephen Chakoff, president of CHS. "The SURECAG funds will enable CHS to continue our efforts to develop the topical skin drug product and hopefully position our company for a private placement and equity fund investment to bring this drug product utilizing the FAU-licensed intellectual property through FDA trials and into the marketplace."

FAU will benefit through the licensing fees as CHS achieves its milestones and through royalties from the sale of products based on FAU's intellectual property. FAU will maintain a stake in CHS and will be able to build a world-wide intellectual property portfolio to enhance the programs surrounding this discovery.

"This is an important step forward," said Weissbach. "The SURECAG program will enable both FAU and CHS to move the project forward with the hope of obtaining a new therapy to treat skin and other cancers. Furthermore, CHS is adding to the growing life science sector in Florida, a state that has a high incidence of skin cancer."

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the world. The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). One in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer at some point in their lives, and it is estimated that over one million Americans will develop skin cancer each year. Pre-malignant AKs are common skin growths induced by sun exposure that have the potential for developing into SCC in more than 20% of cases. Skin cancer rates are rising at alarming proportions in other areas of the world such as Australia. In a 2004 study for the American Academy of Dermatology, the Lewin Group estimated that the U.S. market for AK products is approximately $350 million with approximately 8.2 million people diagnosed and treated for AK annually.

"CHS is addressing this important medical and commercial need through the development of topically active agents which are more effective in treating actinic keratosis, and potentially basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma," said Chakoff.

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses strategically located along 150 miles of Florida's southeastern coastline. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts ten colleges: College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the Barry Kaye College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

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SOURCE Florida Atlantic University
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