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June 28, 2012

ULM pharmacy professors awarded U.S. patent for new drug

The United States Patent & Trademark Office recently awarded the University of Louisiana at Monroe College of Pharmacy a patent for a new anti-cancer drug designed to control prostate cancer metastasis.

Dr. Girish Shah and Dr. Khalid El Sayed, professors in ULM's basic pharmaceutical sciences department, developed a new drug derived from the Red Sea sponge Hemimycale arabica.

Shah and El Sayed designed a unique screening platform enabling them to identify one right compound among 50.

This discovery was further proven in their transgenic mouse model. 

El Sayed said, "I was fortunate to have a great prostate cancer expert like Dr. Shah, who expressed an interest in testing our marine natural products library ... Most cancer mortality is attributed to its ability to invade and metastasize to distant vital organs. Out of more than 50 compounds, a compound from a shallow water Red Sea sponge was able to exert good activity.

"We chemically synthesized the same compound and several related ones and significantly improved the activity. We published several joint papers on these compounds and were able to improve the activity 40-folds of the original natural product. We hope we will bring in grant funding to investigate these compounds more, enhance their activity and prepare them for future clinical studies." 

The research partnership between Shah and El Sayed is the "perfect example" of integrated strengths and expertise available in ULM's College of Pharmacy, El Sayed said. 

"The ULM College of Pharmacy has all needed infrastructures and expertise to become the state’s leading drug discovery institute. President Bruno and the administration are highly supportive of this kind of research," El Sayed concluded.

This is not the first patent awarded to ULM's College of Pharmacy.

In 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Shah a patent for his invention of a biomarker for prostate cancer that may eventually become a new screening tool for physicians everywhere. 

In 2011, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office awarded El Sayed, Shah and Dr. Paul Sylvester a patent for their discovery of anti-cancer prototype compounds, which are found in the waxy substance on fresh tobacco leaves and which show potential for controlling metastic breast and prostate cancers. 

Several scientists within ULM's College of Pharmacy have been awarded patents or have patent applications pending, said College of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Benny Blaylock.

"This speaks to the outstanding efforts of our faculty and their work over time to produce significant results with potential health care benefits in terms of treatments and/or prevention of serious diseases such as prostate cancer and breast cancer. The faculty partnerships formed by our scientists produce powerful research teams that lead to outstanding discoveries. We are very proud of their accomplishments and look forward to their continued success."

Research efforts within the College of Pharmacy are remarkable, said ULM President Nick J. Bruno. 

"Our pharmacy students have the unique opportunity to learn from some of the nation's most remarkable scientists right here at ULM. I am so proud of our professors and the scope of their impact. This recent U.S. Patent is a true testament to their excellence."

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