Over half a million people die from cancer every year, according to current statistics. For those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the current five-year survival rate is 12% but for those diagnosed in metastatic stages, survival is less than 3%.
A startup leveraging technology created at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is now one step closer to commercializing a novel product candidate shown to reduce pancreatic cancer tumor size and suppress metastases.
In March 2023, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) and California Institute of Technology for ANV221, an anti-cancer compound exclusively licensed to biotechnology startup Anviron.
ANV221 is a DPAGT-1 inhibitor with orphan drug designation by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In 2020, UTRF licensed the technology to Anviron and its co-founder, Brad Morrison.
There are so many good technologies out there sitting on a shelf. They could be so helpful with a little bit of entrepreneurial elbow grease,” said Morrison. “We were evaluating patents and came across this technology at UTHSC. It was a good fit for Anviron with an entrepreneur who was passionate and excited about developing it.”
Michio Kurosu, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UTHSC College of Pharmacy, invented the technology. Evan Glazer, professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology at UTHSC College of Medicine, provided clinical advising.
If you don’t have support from the patent, inventors and inventing organization, the licensing process is a sinking ship,” said Morrison. “We appreciate Dr. Kurosu and the UTRF team. They understand the tech transfer process better than anyone we have worked with. This partnership is critical in driving the technology forward.”
Helping the cancer community is a deeply personal project for Morrison. He lost both of his grandmothers to cancer, his father is a cancer survivor, and one of his other family members is battling the disease. He is grateful to work with UTRF, particularly their grasp and appreciation for what is involved in translating biomedical discoveries to the clinic.
Cancer affects so many people,” said Todd Ponzio, UTRF Vice President. “UTHSC has world-class pharmaceutical researchers and surgeons, including Drs. Kurosu and Glazer. But with any top academic group, you still need partners like Anviron to take innovations to the next level. I’m thrilled about this partnership and patent announcement.”
Anviron is currently competing for more than $6 million in cancer research funding this spring and will be announcing a stock offering later this summer to prepare ANV221 for a Phase 1 clinical trial.
Securing a patent for ANV221 is an important step toward de-risking the business,” Mr. Morrison added, “that allows our team to secure the key investors, partners, and resources we need to advance our exciting candidate.”