Rapamycin has been used as an effective immunosuppresant in organ transplantation for over a decade, but researchers continue to find other potential uses for the drug base, from treating cancer to prolonging aging, including staving off Alzheimer's. The success and promise of this anti-aging research carried out by University of Texas Health Science Center pharmacologist Randy Strong and colleagues has recently led to the announcement of a major biotech spin-off company, Rapamycin Holdings Inc., also based in San Antonio. The new company will pursue development and testing of rapamycin-related drugs based on UTHSC intellectual property, as well as produce enhanced rapamycin for the global research market--something UTHSC currently does. Rapamycin Holdings was formed with aid (and ongoing support) from the Texas Technology Development Center (T3DC), the Texas Research & Technology Foundation (TRTF), as well as other stakeholders, in order to commercialize the research technology and bring new drug treatments to patients.
[Image courtesy of Emory University News, 2009]
Rapa Nui is the indigenous name for Easter Island, where the original soil samples containing the bacterium that became rapamycin (sirolimus) were found by Brazilian scientists in 1965. After years of research, the American drug company Wyeth had its rapamycin drug Rapamune approved by the FDA for use in transplant surgery. Wyeth was bought by Pfizer in 2009. Other research into the uses for this potential wonder drug have continued, though, especially at UTHSC. Five of the major UTHSC investigators involved in rapamycin drug research were on hand to celebrate Rapamycin Holdings' recent movement forward (see photo below), along with the company's new chief research officer.
[UTHSCSA investigators, from left: Arlan Richardson, Ph.D., Z. Dave Sharp, Ph.D., Veronica Galvan, Ph.D., Dana Vaughn, Ph.D., Randy Strong, Ph.D., and Salvatore Oddo, Ph.D., courtesy of the UTHSC press release]
Dr. Arlan Richardson is the founding director of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies and a professor of cellular and structural biology. (His lab received $1.08M in NIH funding through the NIA in 2012, plus a grant from the Veteran's Administration for research.)
Dr. Z. Dave Sharp is a professor of molecular medicine at UTHSC. In 2009 he received the Mprize Lifespan Achievement Award from the Methuselah Foundation for his pioneering research into the effect of rapamycin on aging in mice.
Dr. Veronica Galvan is an assistant professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute.
Dr. Randy Strong is a professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine at UTHSC. It was his research that, when published in 2009, broke to the world the full potential of rapamycin.
Dr. Dana Vaughn is the chief research officer of Rapamycin Holdings Inc.
Dr. Salvatore Otto is also an as assistant professor of physiology and works with Dr. Galvan on rapamycin's potential for restoring memory in Alzheimer's patients.
For a look at just what these researchers are doing at the Barshop Institute in their rapamycin research, watch the UTHSC video below.
[Rapamycin research at the Barshop Institute at UTHSCSA]
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