U.Va. Inventors Work to Advance Cancer Treatment Discovery Through New Start-Up Company

October 7, 2008 — University of Virginia researchers Kevin R. Lynch and Timothy L. Macdonald have developed novel therapeutic compounds that could aid in the fight against cancer.

The compounds affect the signaling molecule lysophosphatidic acid, blocking the growth of new blood vessels that are key to the spread and survival of tumors. These compounds could serve as effective treatments for patients with solid tumors, breast cancer and ovarian cancer as well as pulmonary fibrosis and neuropathic pain.

"Solid tumors, as they grow, must attract new blood vessels; if they don't, they die," said Lynch, a professor of pharmacology and biochemistry and molecular genetics at U.Va. "The idea of treating cancer with a drug that blocks the growth of new blood vessels has been around for several decades. Reducing that concept to practice, however, has proven extremely difficult."

Collaborators since the early 1990s, Lynch and Macdonald have worked closely with the U.Va. Patent Foundation to patent and commercialize their research discoveries. The Patent Foundation has filed five patent applications on the inventors' lysophosphatidic acid-targeted compounds throughout the United States and internationally, including one U.S. patent (No. 7,169,818) that was issued in 2007.

Earlier this month, the Patent Foundation licensed the compounds to Catena Pharmaceuticals Inc., a U.Va. biotech start-up company that Lynch and Macdonald founded earlier this year to advance their discoveries to the marketplace.

"We are very excited about the potential of the LPA technology developed by Dr. Lynch and Dr. Macdonald and Catena's commitment to bringing it to the patient's bedside," said Robert S. MacWright, executive director of the U.Va. Patent Foundation.

Latin for "chain," as in the carbon-chain structure of lysophosphatidic acid, Catena has already obtained seed financing from Golden Pine Ventures to launch its product development efforts. In addition to each serving on Catena's board of directors, Lynch serves as the company's vice president of biological sciences and Macdonald as vice president of chemical sciences.

"We decided to form Catena as a small biotech company to 'carry the ball forward,'" said Macdonald, a U.Va. professor of chemistry and pharmacology. "Our goal is to further develop our discoveries to the point where we have a valid drug candidate and then get it in the hands of a company that can bring that drug to market."

— By Morgan Estabrook


About the University of Virginia Patent Foundation

The University of Virginia Patent Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that serves to bring U.Va. technologies to the global marketplace by evaluating, protecting and licensing intellectual property generated in the course of research at U.Va. The Patent Foundation reviews and evaluates nearly 200 inventions per year and has generated nearly $85 million in licensing revenue since its formation in 1978. For more: www.uvapf.org.

About Catena Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Catena Pharmaceuticals Inc. is an emerging drug discovery company commercializing proprietary anti-angiogenic G-protein coupled receptor antagonist compounds. The newest and fastest growing class of anti-cancer therapeutics are angiogenesis modulators, the market for which is predicted to exceed $20 billion by 2012. Catena's exclusive pharmacology exhibits anti-angiogenic properties and fights growth of cancerous tumors and metastatic lesions in animal models.