Ohio State's Drug Development Institute Collaborates with Startup Company to Develop Epigenetic Inhibitors for Cancer Treatment

August 16, 2016
James Cancer Hospital

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State University has announced an exclusive license agreement between the Ohio State Innovation Foundation (OSIF) and a startup therapeutics company to develop new drugs that inhibit a specific enzyme (PRMT5) as potential treatments for cancer and other unmet medical needs.

In collaboration with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Drug Development Institute (DDI), a team of scientists will work to advance this PRMT5 therapeutic program toward pre-clinical drug development. Robert Baiocchi, MD, PhD, a hematologist and researcher with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) serves as lead investigator of the PRMT5 research team which includes Chenglong Li, PhD, (pharmacy) Mireia Guerau de-Arellano, PhD, (neuroscience) and  Jane Jackman, PhD, (chemistry).  

The DDI identifies promising anti-cancer agents discovered at Ohio State and advances them through the pre-clinical development process with a goal of partnering with the pharmaceutical industry, all to accelerate getting new therapies to cancer patients.

This new agreement licenses Ohio State’s portfolio of PRMT5 inhibitors to the company for further development in exchange for an upfront payment, research support, development and sales milestone payments, and long-term royalty revenue sharing.  Together, the company, DDI and the Ohio State research team will form a long-term scientific and strategic collaboration to develop these potential therapies. 

Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) are a family of enzymes that regulate a wide variety of cellular functions and, when dysregulated, are associated with several aggressive human cancers. Recently published scientific evidence suggests that PRMT5, an important member of this family, is a potential oncoprotein involved in transforming a normal cell into a cancer cell and could be  an important target for new treatment strategies. The Ohio State research team, led by Baiocchi and Li, was the first group to develop and report this novel, first-in-class drug to selectively inhibit PRMT5.  The team has been evaluating PRMT5 inhibitors for the therapeutic treatment of various malignancies, benign blood diseases and autoimmune disease.

“PRMT5 is a compelling therapeutic target because it acts like a hub that coordinates diverse molecular activities for cancer cells. There are currently no agents to selectively target PRMT5 on the market so this represents an exciting opportunity to develop a novel inhibitor. Collaborating with the DDI has benefited the team by focusing project development on activities that are aligned with what potential biotech partners are seeking to invest,” says Baiocchi, who is considered a pioneer in the field of PRMT5 biology and has previously published data demonstrating the critical role that PRMT5 plays in the development of numerous cancer types.

The PRMT5 research work to date was partially funded by Pelotonia, a Columbus-based cycling event that has raised more than $106 million to support cancer research efforts at the OSUCCC – James. The research also received support from the National Institutes of Health and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“This collaboration illustrates how the DDI model helps accelerate novel biological discoveries – made in Ohio State labs – toward new therapies for patients through the collaborative efforts of academia and industry,” says Michael Caligiuri, MD, co-founder of the DDI, director of the OSUCCC and CEO of The James. “The DDI takes those great ideas and builds the business case for a biotech company to invest in them and then facilitates a bridge between our academic team and industry collaborators who can help advance those discoveries from lab concepts to new clinical therapies for cancer patients.”


About the OSUCCC – James

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 49 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only four centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 306-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. At 21 floors with more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care.

About The Ohio State University Drug Development Institute

Ohio State’s Drug Development Institute (DDI) is a biotech-like institute embedded in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The DDI’s goal is to accelerate the translation of Ohio State’s most innovative research and deliver tomorrow’s most promising cancer treatments to patients.

Media Contacts:

Amanda J. Harper
OSUCCC – James

Melanie Baker
Ohio State Technology Commercialization Office

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