Ohio University at the Forefront of Drug R&D

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Published February 16, 2011

| FOXBusiness

Despite all the scary stories that U.S. drug research and development has plunged, that the U.S. will lose the drug race to Israel or other countries, U.S. drug research is actually alive and well.

And it is kicking up a storm. At Ohio University. And that’s pretty fabulous.

Ohio University recently announced it could get tens of millions of dollars in royalty income from the development of two potential blockbuster drugs to treat ovarian cancer and gigantism, a disorder that can result in enlargement of the hands and feet, facial disfiguration and multiple organ disorders, leading to premature death. OU says in a statement about 40,000 individuals are diagnosed with acromegaly worldwide.

Ohio University is a state and national leader in the marketing of faculty inventions. It says it has a portfolio that includes 88 patents, with 240 applications pending.

And in a statement, Ohio University graciously says it “joins a list of institutions that includes Northwestern University, New York University, University of Michigan and University of Connecticut that have monetized the royalty income from a profitable technology licensing agreement in order to reinvest in their institution’s research, scholarship and creative activities.”

First up in the news about Ohio University’s latest drug research successes: Gigantism.
Ohio University says in a statement it could get a whopping $52 million over a five-year period when it sells its partial royalty income rights to Somavert, a growth hormone antagonist drug used to treat a form of gigantism. Somavert was developed by researchers at the university.

Question for Ohio University: Would it be possible for doctors to recommend Somavert for our overgrown federal government now gone berserk on an historic spending binge, as the U.S. government is trying to drink itself sober?

Or could doctors get arrested for off-label uses? Never mind—we need Ohio University safe and sound. Come to think of it, I will run for office to stop any such arrests. And to pass a bill that would provide funding for research into teleprompter scramblers. Because teleprompters lead to phoniness in D.C., such phoniness being the root of our problems.

Message to Ohio University: Please develop a drug that treats fiscal dipsomania. And a drug that treats politicians who have no more sense than a flock of geese.

Anyway, Toronto-based private equity firm DRI Capital Inc. bought the rights to Somavert, Ohio University says in a statement. DRI’s business model is based on investing in drug royalties at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as at universities. Ohio University is expected to get $39 million from the Somavert deal--depending on how well Somavert sells, Ohio University could see another $13 million more in revenue.

Drug maker Pfizer has been marketing the drug, and Ohio University has already received an estimated $8 million in royalty income from Pfizer last fiscal year. Ohio University will receive $39 million from the agreement, which includes contingency clauses that

The Food and Drug Administration approved Somavert back in 2003. A decade and a half earlier, Ohio University professor of molecular biology John Kopchick, Goll and graduate student Wen Chen had begun their research on Somavert, in 1987. The two “discovered the growth hormone receptor antagonist, which blocks the body’s normal action of the hormone,” the university says in a statement.

Ohio University says: “After 15 years of research, development and clinical trials—which were supported, in part, by Ohio University alumnus and biotechnology entrepreneur Rick Hawkins—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug based on the discovery, Pegvisomant, for use in 2003.”

Crook the trumpets! Hats and Horns! This is great stuff! You know why? Because quietly behind the scenes, as the yammering heads in DC and the media blather on about how bad things are in America, the country’s creative geniuses have been moving the U.S. forward.

Where have you heard it said that the genius of America is its creative, entrepreneurial spirit, that the genius of liberty is the greatness of America, where brilliant minds can create in freedom?

Moreover, drug research helps the entire world, not just America.

The Somavert “agreement represents the culmination of nearly a quarter century of faculty, student and staff efforts to turn a groundbreaking discovery in a research laboratory into a treatment that has improved the lives of thousands of people around the globe,” said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis.

“The royalty monetization will accelerate Ohio University’s endeavors to invest in additional applied research and innovations that elevate the human condition.”

And kudos to OU for saying it will plow the profits from its royalty deal right back into research, says Rathindra Bose, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College at Ohio University.

"There are a lot of new technologies we're trying to develop, and we should be able to invest part of this money ... so we can hire a number of highly accomplished faculty who can create new technology here," Bose has said. "You look at this as a major investment as a part of the university, and it will pay off immensely."

Gordon Winston, managing director of DRI Capital Inc., says in a news release: "We are extremely pleased that our fund has acquired royalties in Somavert, a product which came about through the direct research of Ohio University and Dr. John Kopchick,” adding, "DRI Capital is always excited to see the proceeds of royalty monetization being used by leading universities to fund innovative research."

But Ohio University hasn’t stopped there.

Ohio University has also hooked up with a New York company to develop a compound that could be used to treat ovarian cancer. Ohio University’s Vice President for Research Bose has said he believes the new compound will be able to kill cancer and stop any growth of cancerous cells.

Phosplatin Therapeutics has teamed up with Ohio University to conduct clinical studies on a new chemotherapy treatment to obtain an investigational new drug application from the Food and Drug Administration, the university says.

The application will let the company begin human testing. "We believe the specific strain of compound... really has extra promise," Phosplatin Therapeutics CEO Robert Fallon has said. "It has much more potency."

Ohio University’s Bose led the research into the compound, which he says could be completed within the next year and a half.

"Potentially, we will be able to kill very late stage cancer where there is currently no treatment options," said Bose, who began studying ovarian cancer treatments two decades ago. Bose began his research at OU in 2008

Already, the research has shown the compound is effective in treating ovarian cancer—and it may also be able to treat colon, head and neck cancer, said Bose.

If the FDA approves the cancer-treating compound, Bose, Ohio University and Phosplatin Therapeutics will all collect royalty fees from profits of the drug.

"Any time we can generate more money for the university it's a good thing," President McDavis has said.  

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