By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019, The Tulsa World/BH Media Group
The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation is one of the finest biomedical research institutions in the world. I2E is honored to be a commercialization partner with this organization of 400-plus scientists who evince such a passion and singular focus on understanding and curing human disease.
What does it mean to be OMRF’s commercialization partner? Our job is to step in and step up to add our capital, connections and expertise to OMRF’s remarkable science.
We work together to create companies that move valuable medical technologies from bench to bedside — devices, diagnostics, and therapies — to better help patients and generate great returns.
There is nothing prescribed or cookie-cutter about commercializing scientific discovery, other than it takes years to discover the science and then prove its efficacy and safety in treating human disease.
Therefore, on promising discoveries, we and OMRF approach opportunities with a flexible mindset to figure out just what it will take — in science and investment capital — to build a business and cure a disease.
A recent example of that is our joint venture to develop a novel therapeutic to treat glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer — the cancer that took the life of U.S. Sen. John McCain last year. There is currently no cure for glioblastoma; the standard treatment is surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy, but the deadly tumor almost always grows back.
OMRF developed an investigational drug called OKN-007 that has been in clinical testing at the University of Oklahoma’s Stephenson Cancer Center. OKN-007, which was long-supported by research funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Commercialization of Science and Technology, also received funding from i2E’s Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund.
In October, Oblato Inc., U.S.-based subsidiary of a Korea investment firm that focuses on rare disease indications, purchased all rights to OKN-007. Oblato will initiate additional trials in larger populations and has plans to develop an oral form of the drug, which is now administered as an infusion.
This project is noteworthy as, to my knowledge, it is the first of its kind in Oklahoma where a not-for-profit research institution without clinical infrastructure collaborates under a novel investment model to manage a new drug therapy through clinical trials, delivering results that generate a commercial collaboration.
“It is a testament to the collaborative spirit of the people and institutions of this state,” said Manu S. Nair, OMRF’s vice president for Technology Ventures. “The seamless collaboration of several institutions made it logistically possible as if it was all done within and by one entity.”
What collaborating on a project like this means to Oklahoma is significant. With OMRF, we have a remarkable source of research and innovation in bioscience. In OCAST we have an established model of research funding (one that we should invest in more if we really want to grow research in Oklahoma).
And with i2E’s capital and venture model, we can invest human resources and money early enough to make enough progress to attract significant outside investment into Oklahoma’s bioscience deals.
What that means to the rest of the world is that possibly, someday there will be a cure for glioblastoma and other devastating diseases.
Scott Meacham is president of i2E Inc., which receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact him at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.