ICTR in the News: Bluefield Innovations Pursues Broadly Applicable Cancer Target
Posted by: Alexander Ward on: January 8, 2018 | Print This Page
The following article profiles work performed by ICTR researchers Marikki Laiho, M.D., Ph.D., the Willard and Lillian Hackerman Professor of Radiation Oncology and director of the Division of Molecular Radiation Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.
Project funded by collaboration between The Johns Hopkins University and Deerfield Management aims to develop first-in-class small molecule drug
Bluefield Innovations, a collaboration between The Johns Hopkins University and Deerfield Management to catalyze early stage therapeutic development, announced today the acceptance and funding of its first project. The target, the enzyme RNA polymerase I (Pol I), is implicated in many forms of cancer.
Originating in the lab of Marikki Laiho, M.D., Ph.D., the Willard and Lillian Hackerman Professor of Radiation Oncology and director of the Division of Molecular Radiation Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the discovery illustrates how cancer cells disproportionately rely on the Pol I cellular pathway when compared to normal cells. Laiho’s research indicates that interfering with this pathway kills cancer cells while causing little harm to normal cells. The acceptance of this project comes just two months after the launch of Bluefield Innovations.
“We are excited to accept Dr. Laiho’s project into Bluefield Innovations and show our commitment to the goal of advancing promising research projects,” says James Flynn, managing partner at Deerfield Management.
Bluefield will provide scientific, financial and operational support to Laiho’s research, enabling her team to identify the clinical lead molecule and to move that candidate toward human clinical trials. Ultimately, this support could lead to the development of a first-in-class small molecule drug.
“I truly appreciate the opportunity to align with a collaborator that shares the same mindset and goals surrounding early stage research targets,” Laiho says. “Bluefield understands that new targets and first-in-class molecules require a higher level of due diligence and with that, they provide the expertise to support the extensive ground work required for the IND process.”
A joint steering committee consisting of representatives from Johns Hopkins and Deerfield selected Laiho’s research to receive the first round of support from Bluefield. The initial five-year term of Bluefield Innovations will provide support and funding to approximately a dozen Johns Hopkins faculty and researchers. A call for applications will take place in the first quarter of 2018.
“Bluefield Innovations provides a valuable avenue for Johns Hopkins researchers to unleash the potential of their promising work,” says William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. “Dr. Laiho’s research may prove to be a transformational cancer treatment. We’re excited that Bluefield has provided her an opportunity to accelerate its development and commercialization.”
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