“I always tell my students that a doctor can change the life of one patient at a time, whereas if you are a drug discoverer, you can change the life of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously,” said Ramesh Narayanan.
Narayanan is a professor in the Department of Medicine, Eric Muirhead Professor of Pathology, and the Deputy Director of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Cancer Center. In a career spanning academia and industry, Narayanan’s research for the past 25 years has focused on identifying therapeutic targets, discovering new drugs, and understanding hormonal cancers at the molecular level.
My research focuses on prostate and breast cancer research, not only because of my training but also the need for society to have better drugs for these patients,” said Narayanan.
Since joining UTHSC in 2014, Narayanan has worked on translational oncology and cancer drug discovery research. Before, he spent a decade at a biotechnology company and trained at Baylor College of Medicine under Nancy Weigel, a renowned nuclear hormone receptor and hormonal cancer researcher.
Working in industry taught me the tricks of the trade,” said Narayanan. “If I had not been in industry, I would not have been this successful at this stage of my career.”
Narayanan, in collaboration with Professor Emeritus Duane Miller, developed a drug candidate, ONCT-534, for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. In October, biopharmaceutical company Oncternal Therapeutics announced the Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked ONCT-534. It is now in phase-one clinical trials.
That was the proudest moment in my life. It was almost like my child graduating and moving on to college,” said Narayanan. “It was the fruit of the hard work we all put in over 10 years. It’s amazing.”
From co-authoring over 100 patent applications and spending years in drug development, Narayanan is thankful to organizations like UT Research Foundation for streamlining and supporting the commercialization process.
UTRF is the vanguard of all our intellectual property,” said Narayanan. “I cannot overstate how our translational researchers exist and sleep better at night because we know UTRF is taking care of us and our inventions.”
At the 2023 Innovation Awards, UTRF named Narayanan the Innovator of the Year. Narayanan referred to this award as one of the “greatest honors” he has received or will ever receive.
“UTRF is proud to serve as the bridge between university research and industry to get essential technology and innovations out into the market,” said Todd Ponzio, UTRF Vice President at UTHSC. “It’s gratifying to partner with researchers like Narayanan to help improve patient outcomes for debilitating diseases.”
One of the most satisfying parts of Narayanan’s work is working with the next generation of scientists in his lab.
I enjoy working with bright minds and collaborating. They will carry on the legacy we are building here,” said Narayanan. “I wake up each day hoping there will be some breakthrough discovery in the lab.”