TheraTarget, a Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative spin-out from the Nano Institute of Utah, University of Utah, has been awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer Phase II grant of nearly one million dollars through the National Cancer Institute to conduct research on “Backbone degradable polymer-drug conjugates for the treatment of ovarian cancer”, a technology designed in Henry Kopeček’s laboratory at the U of U (Departments of Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioengineering). 

“This STTR Phase II grant will enable us to extend our capability to synthesize and characterize backbone degradable, long-circulating polymers conjugated to the anticancer drugs, gemcitabine and paclitaxel”, said Distinguished Professor Jindřich (Henry) Kopeček, Principal Investigator for the grant and co-founder of TheraTarget. 

“It is TheraTarget’s hypothesis that administration of anti-ovarian cancer drugs attached to backbone degradable polymers will result in enhanced efficacy of ovarian cancer treatment”, as stated by Dr. Darwin Cheney, President and Chief Executive Officer of TheraTarget.  

Jiyuan Yang, Research Associate Professor in Dr. Kopeček’s laboratory who will carry out the detailed synthesis of the polymer-drug conjugates said, “The beauty of this technology is that we can tailor the polymer size to control the circulation time in the body. Moreover, compounds attached to the polymer backbone are thereby rendered non-toxic in the bloodstream, but are toxic when they are released after entering the cancer cells.” 

Dr. Sunil Sharma, Professor, Department of Oncology, Huntsman Cancer institute and member of TheraTarget’s Board of Directors stated, “We believe that this novel backbone degradable polymer-drug conjugate technology will enhance drug delivery of anticancer agents and will have significant potential to enhance cancer therapy”