By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Oklahoma is building a reputation nationwide as a place where discoveries in bioscience lead to groundbreaking solutions that can have a real impact on people’s lives.
One exciting example is DormaTarg, an Oklahoma-based firm that is developing therapeutics to deal with one of the toughest challenges in fighting cancer — inhibiting the recurrence in metastasis-prone cancers.
“We have a drug that we believe targets dormant cells before they reactivate and can prevent cancer from metastasizing — going from a primary to a secondary site,” said Michael Ihnat, DormaTarg’s director of drug development.
When tumors travel from the point of origin to some other part of the body, they frequently go dormant; they are hard to find and identify, even with current technology.
Further, even though the tumors aren’t actively growing, they are waiting until certain conditions allow them to reactivate, after which the cancer is likely to be stronger and more vicious than the primary tumor was.
The American Cancer Society reports that upwards of 90 percent of all cancer deaths resulting from cancer are attributable to metastasis.
The initial application of DormaTarg’s agent is for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which is so named because this metastasis-prone cancer lacks three essential targets for current therapy. TNBC accounts for about 15 percent to 25 percent of all breast cancer cases.
DormaTarg screened more than 15,000 compounds to develop the DT300 series of molecules. DT330 has prevented reactivation of metastatic cancer cells in pre-clinical trials and has been shown to be relatively nontoxic, water soluble, and compatible with current therapies.
This amazing science has the potential to help thousands of TNBC patients and eventually patients with other metastatic cancers as well.
But that’s just part of the DormaTarg story. The greatest science in the world can’t help patients until it reaches the marketplace.
The DormaTarg team of cancer specialists and entrepreneurs, with more than 40 years of experience in cancer research and drug development, is meeting the milestones that remove risk and prove efficacy.
DormaTarg has been primarily funded through the Small Business Innovation Research program and other sources of nondilutive capital, of more than $3 million, most of which came from the National Cancer Institute.
The firm has strategic partnerships with some of the best regulatory consultants, formulation experts, and intellectual property attorneys in the industry.
“TNBC is our best entry point to prove efficacy,” Ihnat said. “Our end game is to make a real difference on the aspect of cancer that kills millions of patients every year.”
Oklahoma’s bioscience sector’s economic activity already exceeds $6.7 billion with a return on the state’s investment through the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology of better than 20-to-1.
It’s great to think that the relatively small investments we are making in biotechnology in Oklahoma may have such a fundamental, lifesaving impact on people around the globe someday.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? Bioscience businesses in Oklahoma support more than 51,000 Oklahoma jobs and annual revenues of more than $4.1 billion.