Reata Licenses KU Drug Technologies for Diabetic Neuropathy

Reata Licenses KU Drug Technologies for Diabetic Neuropathy
Brian Blagg, professor of medicinal chemistry, University of Kansas

The University of Kansas and Irving-based Reata Pharmaceuticals have just signed a new licensing agreement for a line-up of drug technologies developed by professor of medicinal chemistry Brian Blagg and professor of pharmacology and toxicology Rick Dobrowsky. These compounds, called “novologues,” may offer a solution to diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a common complication of diabetes that presents as muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling in the limbs.

Reata’s CEO Warren Huff noted that he is pleased to add the new compounds to the company’s pipeline, as they have the potential to address several of today’s most pressing diseases. Earlier phases of investigation into novologues were funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Later phases, including ongoing and future work, have been and will continue to be funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“This is a very significant development for KU,” said Rajiv Kulkarni, director of KU Innovation and Collaboration. “Our goal always is to see drug research developed into treatments that help patients. Reata translates innovative science into medicines for difficult-to-treat diseases, so the agreement is a good fit for them and for KU.”

Blagg developed these compounds targeting potential applications in treating cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. In 2010, the two professors presented results on the use of KU-32 in DPN, which led to several patented discoveries and the recent contract with Reata. Blagg adds, the company’s resources and extensive experience with drug development and testing will be the boost novologues need as “first-in-class” solutions to a complication that affects 60%-70% of diabetics.

Kulkarni adds the licensing agreement exemplifies the university’s dedication for the past 10 years to secure patent protection for its two professors’ breakthrough discoveries. Securing a patent is costly, making the university extremely selective of which advancements to invest in. Kulkarni believes they have made the right decision with the novologues, and will be devoting any revenue generated from this agreement to future commercialization and further research.

In other diabetes news, a study from the University of Michigan Medical Center is looking at a brown fat hormone called neuregulin 4 (Nrg4) to treat metabolic disorders such as diabetes, obesity, and liver disease. Mice models that were genetically modified to have increased levels of this hormone were observed to be protected from becoming obese or developing type 2 diabetes symptoms despite being fed a high-calorie and high-fat diet.

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