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University of Maryland Ventures partners with life sciences companies

Thursday, August 15, 2013

University of Maryland (UM) Ventures has announced agreements between University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and five different life sciences companies across the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan region: Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, Plasmonix, IGI Technologies, A&G Pharmaceuticals and BioAssay Works.

These deals are part of UM Ventures’ efforts to accelerate technology commercialization, advance industry collaboration and support projects with commercial value at both the Baltimore and College Park campuses of the university.

In June, UMB and Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing cancer drugs, executed an exclusive license agreement for a novel drug delivery platform, Nano-Polymer-Drug Conjugate Systems, which was co-developed by researchers with the UM School of Pharmacy in the department of pharmaceutical sciences, including assistant professor Anjan Nan, Ph.D. Rexahn’s platform uses existing chemotherapeutic agents, delivering them directly into cancer tumors. The collaboration began after the company and a team of UMB researchers received a Maryland Industrial Partnership (MIPS) award. The MIPS program is aimed at technology acceleration, providing funds that are matched by Maryland companies to support university-based research.

Also in June, UMB entered into a license agreement with Plasmonix for a pathogen detection technology. Plasmonix focuses on the enhancement of luminescent signals through advanced use of metal nanoparticles, applying its technology in life science and diagnostic assays. Joseph Lakowicz, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology within the UM School of Medicine, invented the technology. His laboratory focuses on advancement of fluorescence compositions and methods for use in both research and commercial applications.

UMB also executed option agreements (giving each company the exclusive right to evaluate a university technology for a short period of time prior to executing a full license agreement) in June with IGI Technologies and A&G Pharmaceuticals, both university startups, although at different stages of company development. Founded by Raj Shekhar, Ph.D., and William Plishker, Ph.D., former UM School of Medicine researchers from the department of diagnostic radiology, IGI Technologies is an emerging startup developing high-speed medical image registration technology through a phase II Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from the NIH.

A&G Pharmaceuticals, which was founded as a UMB startup in 2007, is discovering and developing theranostics (drug/test combinations) that improve screening, detection and treatment of cancer. The company also offers custom antibody development through its service division, Precision Antibody. The agreement is to explore the potential development of a new cancer diagnostic test based on the tissue biomarker research of lead inventor Yun Qiu, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology, UM School of Medicine.

In September 2012, UMB entered into a commercial evaluation and option agreement with BioAssay Works to evaluate a Staph aureus diagnostic technology based on the work of lead inventor, Mark E. Shirtliff, associate professor, department of microbial pathogenesis, with a dual appointment in UM Schools of Dentistry and Medicine. Shirtliff studies bacterial biofilms, a mode of growth where pathogens such as Staph aureus become resistant to conventional therapy. BioAssay Works focuses on antibody-based and antigen-based detection technologies, and on their application in lateral-flow immunoassay. The partnership may lead to the development of a rapid and sensitive test for Staph, in particular the treatment-resistant type.

UM Ventures is a joint research commercialization effort of UMB and the UM, College Park. UM Ventures is a central part of an initiative called University of Maryland: MPowering the State. The program has combined the entrepreneurial efforts of the two universities that together do more than $1 billion a year in externally sponsored research. UM Ventures is bringing innovative technologies to the market and expanding collaborations with industry.

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