Drug company buys Duquesne prof's cancer research
By Debra Erdley
Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A North Carolina drug company has purchased the life's work of a Duquesne University professor, which could pave the way for a pair of anti-cancer compounds he developed to make it to market.
Duquesne announced on Wednesday that FLAG Therapeutics Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., has obtained an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement that includes two classes of small, water-soluble, anti-cancer molecules developed by Duquesne University professor Aleem Gangjee.
Neither party would disclose the terms of the agreement.
Gangjee, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Duquesne since 1979, called it a dream come true for his portfolio, which represents 32 years of research.
“We use a cliché in the business: ‘from bench to bedside.' The bench is the work in the lab developing a molecule from a scientific point of view. But there is a huge gap between taking the drug from the bench to the patient. FLAG is going to help us take the drug from the bench to the bedside,” Gangjee said.
The agreement between FLAG and Duquesne University covers a vast library of compounds and an intellectual-property portfolio protected by more than 50 U.S. and international patents. Gangjee holds the patents, but Duquesne holds rights to his research.
Frank L. Sorgi, president and CEO of FLAG, said he hopes to obtain approval to bring the compounds to human clinical trials within two years.
FLAG Therapeutics is a privately held company formed this year by Sorgi, who has master's degrees in pharmacy and business administration from Duquesne.
Industry experts say it typically takes 10 years and $1 billion to bring a new drug to market. Human clinical trials required to get FDA approval can take two to 51⁄2 years.
According to Fierce Biotech, an industry trade journal, only about five of 5,000 compounds make it through the entire FDA approval process.
Sorgi said Gangjee's work laid a foundation for streamlined development of drugs that hold a potential to treat multiple cancers.
“He built these molecules knowing what he wanted them to do. He knows how and why they work. He's already identified several compounds that are very promising and successful in animal studies,” Sorgi said.
Gangjee's compounds represent two novel classes of small molecules designed to target and destroy cancer cells: anti-angiogenic/anti-tubulin (AA/AT) compounds and folate-targeted anti-cancer (FTAC) compounds.
Sorgi said Gangjee built the AA/AT compounds to do two things at once: They cut off the blood supply to cancer tumors, shrinking them, and deliver a second punch to kill the shrunken tumor.
“So you are able to kill the cells and don't get the nasty side effects of traditional chemo,” Sorgi said.
The FTAC compounds focus only on cancer cells, bypassing healthy cells.
Jan Beumer, a translational researcher and co-head of the first phase of human testing for clinical drug trials at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said the concept of having a single molecule hit two targets is novel and would be difficult to perfect.
“What they're doing is really good. Just getting a company interested in an academic compound is good. But I have seen compounds go from animal trials to human trials and fail,” Beumer said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Web of surveillance videos helps ensnare suspect in East Liberty slayings
- Donor name to be stripped from Penn Hills library
- Newsmaker: Joseph Bonadio
- Qualifications of Peduto nominee for building inspection chief come up short
- Suspect in East Liberty slayings may be part of murder-for-hire case
- FirstEnergy last to get smart meter OK
- Sewickley Academy students learn from master dancer
- On Pittsburgh visit, ambassador says $15B in aid to Ukraine shows support
- Animal Rescue League expansion to anchor section of Homewood
- PennDOT cash eases road repair pain in Lawrence County
- Downtown traffic a mess as protesters take to streets