The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) in Oklahoma City is a major contributor to scientific advancement and the state’s biosciences industry. With seven colleges situated on one academic medical campus, as well as robust basic science, clinical and translational research programs, OUHSC is proud to conduct life-changing research that also benefits the state economically.
The Stephenson Cancer Center (SCC) at OUHSC has become a national leader in cancer clinical research. SCC currently leads the nation in the number of patients participating in National Cancer Institute-sponsored treatment trials offered through the National Clinical Trials Network. In addition, the SCC is in the top 10 nationally for the number of patients participating in early-phase clinical research trials.
In 1998, Oklahoma passed legislation that allows university research to be commercialized, and since that time, many OUHSC projects have been transformed into start-up companies. Several of those companies have since attracted millions in funding, entered into significant agreements, or have been acquired by larger companies.
William Hildebrand, Ph.D., a researcher with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the OU College of Medicine, is chief scientist for Pure Protein, which was launched in 1999 based on his research. A subsidiary of that company, Pure MHC, recently entered into a research and license agreement with pharmaceutical company AbbVie to discover and validate peptide targets for use with T-cell receptor therapeutics in several types of cancer.
Heparinex and Choncept, two other Oklahoma City companies based on research from Paul DeAngelis, Ph.D., and related to the novel recombinant synthesis of compounds, have also struck significant commercial deals with large pharmaceutical companies. Pure Protein, Heparanix and Choncept were all funded in large part by the private investment fund Emergent Technologies of Austin, Texas.
Another successful company based on science developed at OUHSC, Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp., was acquired by Novartis in 2016. Selexys developed a novel antibody therapeutic for sickle cell disease. Based on the results of a Phase 2 clinical trial, Novartis announced it would acquire Selexys and continue the development and commercialization of the therapeutic.
Moleculara Labs is another growing company that developed from the research of Madeline Cunningham, Ph.D., at OUHSC. Moleculera produces clinical assays used in the diagnosis of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococci (PANDAS) and Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).
OUHSC has multiple areas of research expertise. Rodney Tweten, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the OU College of Medicine, in 2016 received the prestigious MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health. The grant, which provides 10 years of uninterrupted funding, will further Tweten’s investigations into cholesterol-dependent cytolysins, considered the most widely disseminated toxins in bacteria. In addition, Tweten’s patented discoveries in the area of Streptacoccal pnuemoniae have been licensed by a vaccine company.
Another area of research expertise with recent commercial activity is with Jimmy Ballard, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the OU College of Medicine. Ballard studies toxins produced by Clostridium difficile, and his patented Clostridium difficile toxoid has recently been optioned by a vaccine company.
The future looks bright for the OU Health Sciences Center and its commitment to the biosciences industry. The Office of the Vice President for Research has launched Sooner-to-Market, a program that leverages various resources to commercialize university discoveries faster. Campus leaders also have played a key role in helping to foster the Innovation District, the thriving area around the OU Health Sciences Center that is ripe for future development.
For additional information about research endeavors and technologies available for licensing, contact the Office of Research Administration at (405) 271-2090 (http://research.ouhsc.edu) or the Office of Technology Development (405) 271-7725 (www.otd.ou.edu).