CU cancer-screening tool goes into clinical use

SuviCa Inc. of Boulder and the University of Colorado recently completed an exclusive license agreement for a CU drug screening technology to identify novel therapies for cancer.

The patented drug discovery tool, developed by CU-Boulder Associate Professor Tin Tin Su of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department, uses a genetically modified Drosophila fruit fly model to screen for compounds effective against various types of cancer, either alone or in combination with existing therapies.

The screening technique will be used to identify new clinical candidates using a methodology that is both time efficient and cost-effective.  Because it uses a whole-animal screening model, the technique can more easily eliminate drug candidates with undesired toxicity.

“SuviCa looks forward to advancing Dr. Su’s technology in order to find better ways to treat cancer patients and to build a world-class business in the Front Range region,” said Judy Hemberger, SuviCa’s chairman and CEO.

“We are excited about the commercial possibilities for the drug screening technology developed by Dr. Su, which has already been used at CU to identify promising therapeutic candidates,” said Tom Smerdon, director of licensing and new business development at the CU Technology Transfer Office, or TTO.

SuviCa recently received funding from Colorado’s Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant Program, an initiative launched in 2007 by the state of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade to provide early-stage, matching seed grants to enable the development and commercial validation of promising technologies that are licensed from Colorado research institutions.

SuviCa also has received a grant from the Internal Revenue Service through the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program aimed at small businesses. Current and future efforts will focus on identifying and optimizing additional lead compounds to enter into formal clinical testing.

SuviCa Inc. is an early-stage cancer drug discovery and development company co-founded by Su, who now serves as its chief science officer. Judith Hemberger, a former co-founder and COO of Boulder-based Pharmion, has joined the senior management team as chairman and CEO.

Working in close collaboration with scientists at CU-Boulder, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado State University, SuviCa is pursuing a promising discovery process based on several small molecules initially identified using its proprietary screening technology and targeted to a distinct cellular process. SuviCa researchers hope to discover and develop novel drugs used as standalone therapies or to prevent tumor recurrence following treatment with a variety of approved anti-cancer therapies.

CU’s TTO pursues, protects, packages and licenses to business the intellectual property generated from research at CU. The office provides assistance to faculty, staff and students, as well as to businesses looking to license or invest in CU technology.

For more information on SuviCa visit http://www.suvica.com. For more information about technology transfer at CU, visit http://www.cu.edu/techtransfer.

September 2011

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