UT Health Science Center San Antonio spin-out company Rapamycin Holdings licenses drug’s intellectual property

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 7, 2012) — The ability of rapamycin-related drugs to potentially slow the aging process — suggested in animal experiments at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio — has led to establishment of a new San Antonio biotech company, Rapamycin Holdings Inc., which is licensing exclusive rights to intellectual property central to several aspects of the rapamycin-related drugs.

Today, Rapamycin Holdings Chief Executive Officer George Fillis announced that the company has acquired those exclusive rights from the UT Health Science Center and its collaborator, Southwest Research Institute. Rapamycin Holdings signed the license agreement with STTM, a multi-institution University of Texas technology-management office operated by the Health Science Center. The announcement was made at the Health Science Center’s South Texas Research Facility, which opened in fall 2011.

A naturally-occurring bacterial product first isolated from soil taken from Easter Island, the base drug rapamycin has long been federally approved to suppress organ rejection in transplant recipients.

Randy Strong, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center, led a pivotal research study under the National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program. Investigators at three U.S. sites worked independently, including Dr. Strong and a team at the Health Science Center’s Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, located in the Texas Research Park. In the study, reported in Nature in 2009, the base drug proved to be the first pharmaceutical intervention to successfully extend life span in laboratory mice.

Subsequently, TIME Magazine, Nature and Science all hailed the study’s results as one of the major scientific breakthroughs of the decade.

Further research reinforced the promise suggested for rapamycin-related drugs. With insight into the drug’s apparent mechanisms of action, Z. Dave Sharp, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine at the Health Science Center, proposed the base drug as an agent of study in the Interventions Testing Program. In 2010, Veronica Galvan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute, and Salvatore Oddo, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology, reported that the base drug rescued learning and memory in two entirely different mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Since 2010, founders of Rapamycin Holdings Inc. have been working to advance commercialization of products stemming from the patent pending technology developed by the Health Science Center researchers.

“Currently, our labs are providing enhanced rapamycin to research facilities worldwide,” said STTM Executive Director Arjun Sanga, J.D., assistant vice president for technology transfer at the Health Science Center. “Rapamycin Holdings will be able to continue doing so, while advancing related products inexpensively and efficiently. We are pleased to work with George Fillis and his team to spin out a company that has licensed these exciting technologies and will commercialize discoveries emanating from UT Health Science Center laboratories, including those at the Barshop Institute.”

Fillis said, “With this agreement and the support of the Texas Technology Development Center (T3DC), the Texas Research & Technology Foundation (TRTF), and our other stakeholders, we can now advance preparations for clinical trials. We expect to have the next preclinical results by mid-year 2013 and advance Phase 1 trials shortly thereafter. There is exciting potential for this family of drugs, and we believe it can have a profound societal health benefit.”

Rapamycin Holdings will be looking to raise an additional $6 million as it approaches the point of taking its first drug product to Phase 1 clinical trials.

After today’s announcement, company leaders unveiled a Rapamycin Holdings logo and invited stakeholders to join in signing it as an endorsement for the company’s potential. Those joining in the signing ceremony included:

    • scientists from the Barshop Institute, who designed studies to test rapamycin’s effects and contracted with Southwest Research Institute to microencapsulate the drug so that it resists degradation in mouse chow, enabling studies to be conducted;
    • representatives of T3DC and TRTF, which are providing investment capital and commercialization expertise to Rapamycin Holdings
    • a representative of the UT Horizon Fund, a $10 million fund to spark commercialization at University of Texas institutions; and
    • the city of San Antonio, represented by City Manager Sheryl Sculley. The city invested in the South Texas Research Facility.

Speakers at today’s announcement included Kenneth L. Kalkwarf, D.D.S., M.S., president ad interim of the Health Science Center, who introduced Fillis, Sculley and Sanga.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

STTM is The University of Texas technology management office operated by the Health Science Center. STTM also serves three other institutions in Texas. STTM provides leadership in promoting innovation and technology transfer through proactive management of intellectual property, technology development and commercialization to support the missions of member institutions, to advance regional economic development and to benefit the public. Please refer to www.utsttm.org to learn more about STTM or other innovative technologies.

The Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies is dedicated to the promotion of healthy aging for everyone. Its world-class scientific community of researchers and physicians seek discoveries to treat and ameliorate the underlying causes of aging, a cost-effective approach to broadly enhance the quality of later life. Explore www.barshop.uthscsa.edu to learn about the extraordinary work of this community of researchers and physicians.

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