UMB grants licensing option for anticancer drug that uses Anthrax - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Sep. 19, 2019 9:10 am

UMB grants licensing option for anticancer drug that uses Anthrax

The agreement is with Spherix Incorporated, whose CEO called the drug "ingenious."
The University of Maryland BioPark.

The University of Maryland BioPark.

(Courtesy photo)

New York-based Spherix Incorporated announced a licensing agreement this week for a University of Maryland, Baltimore-invented drug that reengineered Anthrax to treat ovarian cancer.

Spherix was granted an exclusive option to license the drug, called PrAg-PAS, from the university. Under this option, Spherix has until December to complete due diligence and execute a license to commercially develop the drug.

To most, the infection Anthrax is associated with the bioterrorism attacks in 2001 (or the ’80s metal band). But with this drug, the toxin that causes the disease is used to destroy cancer cells.

“This invention from the University of Maryland, Baltimore is ingenious. In simple terms, they have modified the Anthrax toxin so that it kills cancer cells, but not other cells,” Spherix CEO Anthony Hayes said in a statement. “By using an elegant protein engineering strategy, the inventors have hijacked the complex anthrax toxin delivery mechanism to create a highly efficient drug delivery system specific to ovarian cancer cells.”

The patent for the drug, which is in the testing phase, is currently being reviewed by the federal government.

UMB has been upping commercialization activities around the discoveries coming out of its labs and centers in recent years, with activity helmed by UM Ventures. This agreement shows how licensing is one way that these innovations spread, along with the startups that arise from entrepreneurial faculty. In this case, the agreement is with a publicly traded company that recently made two other deals to add anticancer drugs to its portfolio.

Phil Robilotto, the director of UM Ventures, Baltimore, called Spherix “an excellent commercial partner for this promising technology.”

“They have a strong track record of successfully collaborating with universities and we are very excited by Spherix’s goals for PrAG-PAS program,” he said in a news release.

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