Firm looks to therapies based on UCCS professor's research

December 16, 2009

A small California company has signed licensing agreements for medical technology developed by a local biology professor to treat cancer, HIV and other autoimmune diseases, but any drugs or other treatments likely are years from being available to the public.

Viral Genetics Inc. plans to seek Food and Drug Administration approval during the first quarter to begin testing a new type of drug that targets the response of an individual’s immune system to fight off HIV, cancer, lupus, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, said Haig Keledjian, the company’s president. The drug was developed from research conducted by Karen Newell, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs associate biology professor.

“We are confident that Viral Genetics has the capacity to develop these technologies into products with significant impact,” said David Allen, associate vice president for technology transfer at the University of Colorado, which signed the agreement with the company.

“This agreement enables us to work towards bringing a diverse array of drug therapies to the market, all based on technology developed by” Newell, Keledjian said in a press release. “This is cutting-edge science that Karen has developed.”

Viral Genetics is studying whether to seek grants from foundations and the National Institutes for Health to pay for testing in the United States, although the company already has conducted human trials in China, Mexico and South Africa, Keledjian said.

The company also has signed a second license agreement to develop cancer therapies using Newell’s research into the chemical compound dichloroacetate that indicates the compound robs cancerous tumors of energy they need to grow. That agreement will allow the company and Newell to “pursue new lines of research,” which Keledjian said have “tremendous potential to help patients with drug-resistant tumors, the leading cause of death” from cancer.

Both technologies “are in the early stages and require proof of concept,” said David Poticha, senior licensing manager for the Technology Transfer Office at University of Colorado at Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus. “Both licenses address enormous potential markets, but are years away from reaching the market. I believe the science behind (autoimmune disease therapies) is remarkable, paradigm-shifting science. We have a lot of hope that this technology can help millions of people.”

Viral Genetics is based in Azusa, Calif., and stems from work started in 1992 by Keledjian and Dr. Harry Zhabilov, who died in 2002. The company’s stock still trades over the counter, even though Viral Genetics deregistered its shares in March with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Contact the writer at 636-0234

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