UArizona COVID-19 treatment takes next step toward public impact via license to pharmaceutical company
R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy invention moves to next step toward impact
Updated March 6, 2023
TUCSON, Arizona — Researchers at the University of Arizona R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy have been developing and measuring the effectiveness of a new compound that inhibits SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the university has exclusively licensed the technology to Sunshine Biopharma Inc. to take forward for further development and testing.
The invention is a PLpro protease inhibitor that has shown to be effective in tests performed by the development team. PLpro helps viruses avoid the human immune response and is needed for the virus to replicate. Studies have shown that the invention significantly reduces viral loads and thus is an excellent therapeutic strategy for the next generation of COVID-19 antiviral medications.
Tech Launch Arizona, the office of UArizona that commercializes inventions stemming from research, has been working with pharmaceutical company Sunshine Biopharma Inc. (NASDAQ: “SBFM”) to develop pathways to bring the invention to the public. The license grants Sunshine Biopharma worldwide rights for the University of Arizona and University of Illinois Chicago patent rights pertaining to PLpro protease inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 developed by the researchers.
“It's good to see the work that we started at the beginning of the pandemic is moving forward towards real-world impact,” said Gregory Thatcher, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Coit College of Pharmacy.
Dr. Thatcher led the initiative in collaboration with assistant professor Rui Xiong, PhD, and postdoctoral research associate Zhengnan Shen, PhD, at the University of Arizona and collaborators Kiira Ratia, PhD, Lijun Rong, PhD, and Laura Cooper, PhD, at the University of Illinois Chicago.
“A strength of our research enterprise within our college is collaboration,” said Rick Schnellmann, dean of the Coit College of Pharmacy. “Cultivating partnerships only helps to advance the science aimed at solving our society’s most pressing health issues.”
“We are delighted to partner with Sunshine in the translation of this technology for the benefit of patients someday,” said TLA Director of Licensing and Intellectual Property Rakhi Gibbons.
“The encouraging research results we have obtained in our collaboration with the University of Arizona prompted us to exercise our option to license,” said Dr. Steve Slilaty, CEO of Sunshine Biopharma. “We are very pleased with this milestone in terms of securing the intellectual property of the project as we continue to move forward with the development of our COVID-19 treatment pipeline,” he added.
Specifically, the licensed patents cover small molecules which have been shown to be efficient inhibitors of PLpro – the second viral protease responsible for the suppression of the human immune system – thereby reducing the capability of the SARS-CoV-2 to cause severe illness. Paxlovid®, an inhibitor for the first protease (Mpro) has recently received emergency use authorization from the FDA. Sunshine Biopharma believes that an inhibitor for the second protease will provide another target to combat the virus and help mitigate the occurrence of possible resistance events.