UA Pharmaceutical Startup Awarded STTR Grant

Friday, October 16, 2015
Image of coated aspirin

Tucson, Ariz. – Botanisol, a University of Arizona startup company based on technology developed in the Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the College of Pharmacy and Cellular and Molecular Medicine in the College of Medicine - Tucson, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) grant totaling almost $225,000 to develop a new anti-inflammatory drug, TAI-LCx. The novel drug represents a possible replacement for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

The award was given under the Federal STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) program.

Current NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, are used to treat a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but research has linked the drugs to bleeding ulcers, kidney problems, stroke and heart attacks, with patients over 65 experiencing elevated risk.

TAI-LCx was originally developed by Dr. Barbara Timmermann, former UA Regents Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and current Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Clark Lantz, UA Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and their colleagues. The compound is a highly specific constituent derived from the essential oils of turmeric; it is not curcumin nor a derivative thereof.

Early published research has shown the drug to be a promising treatment for inflammation and inflammatory pain that utilizes a different pathway than NSAIDs to achieve safer treatment results. Current NSAIDs’ overuse has resulted in an FDA announcement titled “FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes.”

The competitive grant will fully fund three stages of TAI-LCx development, and represents a great milestone for the company, according to CEO and co-founder, P. Scott Waterhouse.

“TAI-LCx is a promising discovery because the research has shown that it reduces inflammation without affecting the COX-2 (cyclooxygenase) enzyme,” says Waterhouse. COX-2 mediation is directly linked to the known cardiovascular adverse effects of NSAIDs.

The novel TAI-LCx compound was discovered at the University of Arizona as the result of an NIH supported research program. Through Tech Launch Arizona, the unit of the UA that commercializes the inventions stemming from University research, the UA sought protection for and patented the technology, and licensed it exclusively to Botanisol.

Tod McCauley, the Tech Launch Arizona licensing manager working with Botanisol’s TAI-LCx technology, commented, “We are excited to see Botanisol’s tremendous developmental efforts being recognized by the NIH’s Small Business Technology Transfer program with funding that is critical to the commercial advancement of TAI-LCx.”

- written by Paul Tumarkin
Paul Tumarkin