Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sugarcoating It: National Conference Helps Biotech Firm Find New Deals

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sugarcoating It: National Conference Helps Biotech Firm Find New Deals

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Paul DeAngelis wants to sugarcoat his company's work, and he's making millions of dollars for Caisson Biotech and for the University of Oklahoma in the process.

A naturally occurring sugar enzyme that is the key to his pharmaceutical research provides a competitive advantage over substitute drugs.

Colleagues from the biotech firm touted the enzyme's advantages to potential investors at dozens of meetings during the June BIO International Conference in Philadelphia, said DeAngelis, chief scientist at Caisson and a molecular biology professor at OU's Health Sciences Center. His company will likely get more licensing deals, thanks in part to interest from those meetings.

The four-day conference is a virtual mixing pot for scientists, academics and pharmaceutical companies, he said. It was where he and colleagues began initial conversations with Novo Nordisk years ago, which eventually developed into a multimillion-dollar licensing agreement with the drug giant.

Caisson and a team of researchers developed a way to extend the half-life of medications through the sugarcoating process. Novo Nordisk initially licensed the technology in 2012, then signed a $167 million agreement in 2014 and extended the agreement in February with more royalties that could handily exceed hundreds of millions for OU, his university research team and the company.

The HEPtune process can also be used for other drugs, such as chemotherapy. It provides an advantage over some drugs in the market that use man-made sugar, polyethylene glycol, said Caisson CEO Tommy Harlan. Polyethylene glycol may build up in the body over time, because it's a common ingredient in chewing gum, toothpaste and plastics, he said.

Caisson staff presented the HEPtune process to some unnamed companies in January and February, and used the BIO conference to follow up with those concerned about glycol's potential toxicity, Harlan said. …

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