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Release: April 17, 2000

Drug company signs license agreement with UI Research Foundation for UI discovery

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Research Foundation has granted IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corporation exclusive, worldwide license to use a UI discovery that may help to treat prostate cancer.

San Diego-based IDEC will use the UI-discovered antibody 5E10 in conjunction with some of its own therapeutics to develop new immunotherapies for prostate cancer. 5E10 is a prostate-specific, surface-reactive monoclonal antibody. In this case, the monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that the researchers engineer in the laboratory. The hope is that someday doctors will be able to use 5E10 to help better deliver radiation doses directly to cancerous tissue.

The 5E10 discovery was made by Michael Cohen, M.D., UI professor and head of pathology; Oskar Rokhlin, Ph.D., UI adjunct professor of pathology; and George Weiner, M.D., director of the UI Cancer Center and UI associate professor of internal medicine.

"The goal of any medical researcher is a discovery that he or she made will eventually be used to help patients," Cohen said. "We are all excited that IDEC will be able to use our work to improve prostate cancer treatments."

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, with an estimated 31,900 deaths in 2000, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 180,400 new cases will be diagnosed in 2000.

"By joining forces, the research community and the pharmaceutical industry hopefully can help to decrease the number of prostate cancer deaths," Weiner said.

IDEC will use 5E10 with a radioisotope called Yttrium 90. The goal is to increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy.

The UI Research Foundation is managing the licensing agreement with IDEC. Created in 1975, the UI Research Foundation is a freestanding, not-for-profit corporation. Its mission is to enable the use of intellectual property created at the UI. The UI Research Foundation currently has more than 120 active licenses.

"We are hopeful that IDEC can introduce a useful therapeutic," said Bruce Wheaton, Ph.D., executive director of the UI Research Foundation. "If that happens, the UI will benefit along with the patients."

Since its creation, the UI Research Foundation has helped the UI to obtain more than 200 patents. The Research Foundation also maintains a roster of technologies available for license and works closely with potential industry partners, such as IDEC, to see that UI inventions have an opportunity to be commercialized for public benefit.

"Granting an exclusive commercial license is sometimes the only way that the public can ever benefit from a university invention," Wheaton said. "Some products, such as new drugs, require a substantial financial investment. Without exclusive rights, no profit-oriented firm could afford to make such an investment. If you tried to license, for example, a new drug to 15 different pharmaceutical companies, none of them would invest any money in product development or the conduct of clinical trials, and the public would have nothing. In a situation like that, the effort to make the product everybody's would make it nobody's."

IDEC focuses on the commercialization and development of targeted therapies for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.