Residents of the Bioscience Park Center include companies that provide services such as bioanalytical testing and genomic screening as well as start-ups. MBC Pharma moved from Boulder to the Bioscience Park Center in June. The company’s technology improves bisphosphonates by using linker chemistry. Its pipeline consists of these compounds combined with different chemotherapy drugs, anti-infectives, and anti-inflammatory agents for treating bone disorders and cancer that has metastasized to bone.
In cancer that has metastasized to the bone, when these conjugates are injected, they treat cancer as well as bone loss, says David Sebesta, CEO. “Treating cancer that has metastasized to bone is our first therapeutic area,” Sebesta says. MBC Pharma plans to file an IND in the first quarter of 2008 for its lead compound, MBC-11, to treat bone metastases in end-stage cancer patients.
MBC Pharma also has a related technology that attaches bisphosphonates to vitamin B6 to increase the oral availability of osteoporosis drugs. Less than 1% of current therapies are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Because patients must take these medications on an empty stomach and remain upright, compliance is poor. Receptors in the gut for vitamin B6, however, increase the uptake of bisphosphonates.
Another resident, MycoLogics (www.mycologics.com) hopes to help troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from “Baghdad boil,” the cutaneous form of Leishmaniasis. Thousands of afflicted soldiers are treated with Pentosam, an antimony-based drug that causes debilitating fever, headaches, and fatigue, and costs $20,000 per patient.
MycoLogics uses a yeast technology licensed from GlobeImmune to screen compounds that inhibit an essential protozoan enzyme. A vaccine against Leishmaniasis also is being developed. Vaccines for other fungal infections such as Aspergillosis and Cryptococcosis that attack immunocompromised patients are in the pipeline.
Also targeting cancer, Caveo Therapeutics (www.caveotherapeutics.com) is still in its infancy. The company focuses on tyrosine kinase receptors to treat blood cancers. The company’s protein inhibitors are aimed at the Mer receptor expressed by leukemia and lymphoma cells. When the Mer signal is blocked, cancer cells become more sensitive to chemotherapy. Caveo’s inhibitors may thus help lower the dose of chemotherapy drugs and reduce side effects. Blocking Mer signals also may prevent relapse in leukemia and lymphoma patients. “There are many drugs now for first-line patients, but not many options for patients who relapse,” points out Rhonda Wallen, director of business development.
Further along in development, Arca Discovery (www.arcadiscovery.com) has completed Phase III trials of its heart attack treatment, bucindolol, and will file an NDA by the end of 2007. The company is also developing a commercial genetic test in collaboration with the Laboratory Corporation of America to aid physicians in prescribing bucindolol. “Bucindolol will be the first cardiovascular drug with a genetic test,” predicts Michael Bristow, M.D., Ph.D., cofounder.
Arca’s drug as well as diagnostic tool is based on its discovery of genetic polymorphisms in two adrenergic receptors that regulate the heart. Bucindolol, which targets these receptors, is the company’s third-generation beta blocker. Patients with certain variants of these receptors benefit strongly from bucindolol, while other variants bring little response or unwanted side effects.
Lohocla Research, whose name is alcohol spelled backwards, used rationale drug design to create DCUK (dichloro diphenyl ureido kynurenate ethyl ester). This product treats pain and alcohol dependence by targeting both NMDA receptors and voltage-sensitive sodium channels. In appropriate animal models, DCUK reportedly reduces pain as well as alcohol-relapse behavior.
Lohocla’s first clinical trials of DCUK will be for patients experiencing chronic pain due to cancer or diabetic neuropathy. “No one else has a drug that targets NMDA and sodium channels in the periphery and not in the central nervous system,” notes Dr. Tabakoff, who is also CEO of the company and chair of pharmacology at UCHSC.
Consequently, DCUK should not cause sedation like current pain drugs that cross the blood-brain barrier. “We’re talking to large pharma companies,” states Dr. Tabakoff, “and are being taken seriously.”