OHSU

Portland-based OHSU Spinoff Virogenomics and University Researchers Awarded Federal Grant

09/26/03   Portland, Ore.

Grant will fund study of a drug for the prevention and treatment of stroke.

A federal research grant to study a method for preventing and treating stroke has been awarded jointly to Virogenomics Inc., a Portland-based drug discovery company, and Oregon Health & Science University.

"We have discovered a compound that provides significant protection to the brain when it's administered immediately prior to or following a stroke," said Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "The goal of this project is to define the way that this compound works and to determine how best to integrate it into a drug development program for treating stroke in humans. The research describing the approach leading to this discovery appears in the September 27th issue of The Lancet."

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke awarded the phase I grant under the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. The grant provides $99,703 for Virogenomics-sponsored research conducted by its scientists and scientists at OHSU and Legacy Research in Portland. Stenzel-Poore will serve as principal investigator for the project. Co-investigator Roger Simon, M.D., is director and chairman of the R.S. Dow Neurobiology Laboratories at Legacy Research in Portland.

"Today about 750,000 Americans suffer a stroke and 158,000 die from one annually," Simon said. "By 2050 the number of stroke victims will increase to 1 million a year. Of the 4.5 million survivors of stroke alive today, as many as 30 percent are permanently disabled and 20 percent require institutional care."

STTR is a congressionally mandated program intended to support cooperative research and development projects between small businesses and research institutions. STTR grants are structured in two phases: phase I grants show feasibility, and phase II grants develop a product or service.

"STTR funding is unique because it is only available for projects involving both small businesses and research institutions, and because the phase I period of study encourages innovative research proposals," Stenzel-Poore said. "It is the partnership between OHSU and Virogenomics that made this cutting-edge study possible. One could not have received it without the other."

Virogenomics, an OHSU spin-off, was founded in 2001 as a genomics-enabled drug discovery company developing two innovative platforms. The autoimmune platform is based on a proprietary class of compounds that can be tailored to specifically target a wide range of autoimmune diseases. The drug discovery platform uses a unique virus-induced process to identify patterns of gene expression for a given disease, and to study those patterns as a means of discovering novel gene targets and compounds directed against those targets. Virogenomics' lead compound for the autoimmune platform, VG1000, is currently undergoing preclinical trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

"Virogenomics is a superb example of OHSU's commitment to increasingly foster technology transfer and startup industry development in the state of Oregon," said Daniel Dorsa, Ph.D., OHSU vice president of research administration. "This grant documents our continuing commitment to working closely with industry to further develop technology and promote economic development."

Under a license agreement, OHSU is a shareholder of Virogenomics. The university also receives funding from Virogenomics to support the research and is entitled to royalties and a share of sublicense fees on any products commercialized by Virogenomics as a result of these technologies.

Particulars: The article "Effect of ischemic preconditioning on genomic response to cerebral ischemia: similarity to neuroprotective strategies in hibernation and hypoxia-tolerant states" is published in the September 27th issue of The Lancet.

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