A Lawrence company that uses patented technology created at the University of Kansas to improve the effectiveness of drugs has won a $100,000 National Institutes of Health grant to support further testing of the company's promising new cancer drug, Nanotax.
The company, CritiTech Inc., in cooperation with the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., already has performed preclinical ovarian cancer studies at the medical center under the direction of Katherine Roby, research associate professor of anatomy and cell biology and a member of the medical center's Kansas Masonic Cancer Research Institute. Researchers at KU's Higuchi Biosciences Center developed the patented technology.
"Dr. Roby's research illustrates how industry and university scientists can become partners in developing treatments and drugs that will improve human health and have positive economic impact on the state of Kansas," said Barbara Atkinson, executive dean of the KU School of Medicine and vice chancellor for clinical affairs.
Atkinson said that the School of Medicine also is working with the Higuchi Biosciences Center and other programs on the Lawrence campus in pursuit of Comprehensive Cancer Center status from the National Cancer Institute at the medical center.
The NIH grant will support a second round of preclinical trials for Nanotax, a new formulation of Taxol, a well-known drug used to treat breast and ovarian cancers, said Sam Campbell, chief executive officer and chairman of CritiTech. Nanotax, the first drug to be announced under the company's drug development program, offers the hope of improved delivery of Taxol to patients without the negative side effects normally associated with the drug.
"We are pleased the NIH has helped fund important research into Nanotax," Campbell said. "The results of earlier studies were very encouraging, and the next research phase will move forward quickly as a result of this grant."
CritiTech's work shows how bioscience research in Kansas and Missouri has created opportunities for new business development. The company is expanding its operations to become a developer and manufacturer of fine-particle pharmaceutical compounds for both the drug manufacturing and biotechnology industries.
"CritiTech is a prime example of how technology developed through KU research leads to the formation of a spin-off company with the potential to significantly benefit the economy of Kansas and the health of society," said Jim Roberts, vice provost for research and president of the KU Center for Research.
CritiTech, started in 1997, conducts research and development into the production of drugs using a patented process developed by Bala Subramaniam, the Dan F. Servey distinguished professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and director of the KU Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.
The process allows CritiTech to make very small particles, called nanoparticles, of existing drugs to enhance their delivery and effectiveness in humans and improve drug manufacturing and development.
The process is based on the theory that smaller particles may be more effective and easier to deliver, producing fewer side effects in humans, Campbell said. CritiTech started working with Taxol about two years ago, he said. For cancer patients to take Taxol, the drug must be given with Cremophor, a harsh solvent that allows Taxol to be delivered to the cancer cells. Cremophor causes severe side effects for patients.
CritiTech has been able to use its technology to make Taxol into smaller particles and allow it to be delivered with saline instead of Cremophor. The new formulation created by CritiTech is Nanotax.
Campbell thanked several KU faculty members responsible for CritiTech's success and the development of Nanotax, including Valentino Stella, university distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry; Charles Decedue, executive director of the Higuchi Biosciences Center; Roger Rajewski, associate research professor at the Higuchi Biosciences Center; Fenghui Niu, research associate in the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis; and John Haslam, research professor at the Higuchi Biosciences Center.