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$2 Million State Grant Will Help Commercialize Research
Technology licensed from UT Health Science Center will help create safer painkillers
Governor Rick Perry has announced a $2 million grant under the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) to PLx Pharma Inc. of Houston, which is building on research originally developed at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
The TETF award will help PLx Pharma produce new formulations for safer and more effective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) than those currently on the market, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Every day millions of people take over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs for relief of pain, such as from arthritis and backaches.
The pharmaceutical company will use a platform technology licensed from the UT Health Science Center at Houston and will focus on reducing the potential life-threatening gastrointestinal (GI) toxicities related to chronic use of NSAIDs.
Lenard M. Lichtenberger, Ph.D., is chief scientific officer and a founder of PLx Pharma, as well as a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology in the UT Medical School at Houston. Lichtenberger has conducted extensive research supported by more than $8 million of National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other grants into the effects of NSAIDs on the GI tract. He has found that chemically associating an NSAID with a substance called phosphatidylcholine (PC), a purified form of lecithin derived from soybeans, will dramatically reduce the GI bleeding and ulcers NSAID use may cause.
Lichtenberger noted positive laboratory findings using rodent models of ulcer disease. “These have recently been translated into meaningful observations from a clinical trial with ibuprofen-PC inducing significantly less GI injury in ‘at risk’ osteoarthritic subjects than were endoscopically observed in an age/gender-matched group receiving the same dose of Motrin,” he said.
The patented technology eventually may extend from NSAIDs to a much larger potential market that could include prevention of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and several types of cancer.
“My PLx Pharma colleagues Ron Zimmerman and Upendra Marathi and I are very encouraged that the State of Texas continues to support our PC-NSAID technology,” Lichtenberger said. “This major award will greatly facilitate our efforts to commercialize our aspirin formulation.”
The most recent TETF awards to six Texas emerging technology companies are part of a $200-million initiative created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 at the governor’s request. The grants are intended to help early stage businesses introduce their innovations to the marketplace and attract leading university research teams to Texas universities.
“Technological innovation is the lifeblood of today’s economy,” Gov. Perry said in a March 14 news release.
By David R. Bates, Institutional Advancement
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