OHSU Research Discoveries Lead to Formation of New Biotechnology Company

07/24/03    Portland, Ore.

Receptor BioLogix will develop agents to treat cancer, and autoimmune and metabolic diseases

A Portland- and San Francisco-based company, Receptor BioLogix Inc., has been founded to develop a promising new class of therapeutics discovered at OHSU to treat cancer and other diseases.

Receptor BioLogix's lead clinical product is Herstatin, which is a broad-spectrum anticancer agent. The Herstatin discovery led to the development of an intron fusion protein (IFP) discovery platform, a new strategy that will leverage the enormous recent progress in human genome DNA sequencing and bioinformatics.

"Receptor BioLogix is a great example of how OHSU's research contributes to the well-being of Oregonians," said OHSU President Peter O. Kohler, M.D. "This burgeoning technology has the potential to improve health care and, at the same time, to spur economic opportunities in the state."

Receptor BioLogix has identified a variety of IFPs for potential treatment of cancer, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases and will enter into partnerships with other biopharmaceutical companies worldwide to advance this technology.

Herstatin was discovered in the laboratory of Gail M. Clinton, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, OHSU School of Medicine, and member of the OHSU Cancer Institute; and John P. Adelman, Ph.D., senior scientist at OHSU's Vollum Institute and a member of the OHSU Cancer Institute.

Herstatin is a natural product that inhibits the functions of a family of oncogenes, including HER-1 and HER-2, implicated in several cancers. Herstatin is readily produced by standard gene expression methods and is likely to be non-immunogenic, which could facilitate its path through drug development and FDA approval.

The HER-2 gene is the target of an existing drug, Herceptin, which is approved strictly to treat breast cancer. Developed by Genentech, Herceptin had total revenues of $385 million in 2001. Unlike Herceptin, Herstatin is naturally occurring and targets a broader spectrum of cancers. The potential of Herstatin is considerably greater than Herceptin because it may be useful against about half of all cancers, affecting some 500,000 patients a year. It's estimated that Herstatin could exceed $1 billion in annual sales.

"Though many years and much testing away from clinical use, these are among the most promising discoveries to emerge from OHSU research in recent years," said Todd Sherer, Ph.D., director of OHSU Technology and Research Collaborations (TRC). "Our market studies showed they have tremendous medical and economic potential. As a result, we pursued the opportunity to start a company in Oregon and invested seed capital to commercialize our technologies."

OHSU is playing a major role in the company's formation and the eventual commercialization of the drugs. OHSU recruited the chairman and CEO, licensed the technologies, and invested seed capital for research to bring the technologies to market. In addition, two OHSU scientists are founders and executives in the company. With equity in the company, OHSU will receive milestone and royalty payments when the drugs are approved and marketed.

The company's leaders bring considerable experience to the process. Chairman and CEO H. Michael Shepard, Ph.D., while at Genentech, led the discovery and development of the Herceptin therapeutic with colleagues Axel Ullrich, Ph.D., and Dennis Slamon, M.D., Ph.D. As chief scientific officer and vice president of research at Canji Inc., he developed the application of the p53 gene product for cancer treatment.

Clinton, scientific founder and chief scientific officer, holds 12 patents and patent applications, and is a world-recognized expert on receptor tyrosine kinases, which are the targets of Herstatin and other IFPs in the pipeline. Adelman, also a scientific founder, is chairman of Receptor BioLogix's Scientific Advisory Board. Adelman spent several years at Genentech and is a world-recognized authority on ion channels and their relationship with disease.

Through TRC, OHSU transfers discoveries resulting from its clinical, educational and research activities to companies for commercial development and, when appropriate creates new ventures. OHSU scientists have disclosed 600 new technologies since 1985, resulting in more than $10 million in licensing revenues. This revenue is used to advance OHSU's teaching and research activities.