The Arizona Bioindustry Association, or AZBio, annually honors bioindustry leaders from across Arizona who epitomize the depth, breadth and expertise of the state's bioscience industry. At the organization's upcoming 2017 awards ceremony on Oct. 11, many of the honorees have deep connections with the University of Arizona and have brought UA ideas and inventions from the laboratory to the marketplace.
Awardees will include two UA inventors (Dr. Marvin J. Slepian and Laurence Hurley) and two companies (Avery Therapeutics and NuvOx Pharma) that have worked closely with Tech Launch Arizona, or TLA, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from research. UA educator Carol Bender of the UA Undergraduate Biology Research Program, or UBRP, also will be honored.
About the winners:
Dr. Marvin J. Slepian: AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement
Slepian is a cardiologist, inventor, entrepreneur and educator. At the UA, he serves as professor of medicine, professor and associate department head of biomedical engineering, professor of materials science and engineering, professor of medical imaging, McGuire Scholar in the Eller College of Management and a member of the Sarver Heart Center and BIO5 Institute. Slepian is founder and director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation, or ACABI, a "creativity engine" focused on developing novel solutions for unmet medical needs. He is a named inventor on more than 50 issued patents and applications in the fields of vascular biology, polymeric biomaterials, local drug delivery and artificial organs, and he has commercialized a range of inventions. He and ACABI have collaborated with TLA to commercialize several technologies through startups. Slepian is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and president of the International Society for Mechanical Circulatory Support.
Laurence Hurley: Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year Award
Hurley is the Howard Schaeffer Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the UA College of Pharmacy, director of the UA BIO5/College of Pharmacy Drug Discovery and Development Program, and a research member of the UA Cancer Center. He is internationally known for the identification of small molecule therapeutic agents that target DNA quadruplexes, unique four-stranded DNA structures that control gene expression. His team recently developed a platform technology that accelerates the discovery process for next-generation pharmaceutical agents that modulate quadruplex control of gene expression and is working with TLA to bring the technology to the marketplace through Reglagene, a new company being formed.
A Startup Avery Therapeutics: AZBio Fast Lane Award
Avery Therapeutics Inc. licensed a beating heart graft technology invented at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. Pre-clinical studies have shown that the technology, called MyCardia, improves heart function. The Avery team and the beating heart graft technology have received a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research award of nearly $500,000 from the National Institutes of Health, a $750,000 award from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, and $60,000 in cash and prizes at Tucson's Get Started pitch competition in October 2016. In November 2016, the company also pitched at the Falling Walls conference in Berlin.
As a UA startup built to commercialize a UA invention, Avery benefited from many TLA resources, including its Asset Development, NSF I-Corps and Mentors-in-Residence programs. The company has secured its first round of equity financing.
MyCardia inventors Dr. Steven Goldman, professor of medicine at the UA Sarver Heart Center, and Jordan Lancaster, who earned his doctorate in physiology from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, serve as the company's chief medical and chief science officers, respectively. Avery's chief operating officer, Jen Watson Koevary, earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering from the UA and previously was part of the team at TLA. She also is a UA research assistant professor.
UA Licensee NuvOx Pharma: AZBio Fast Lane Award
NuvOx Pharma, a biotechnology company based in Tucson, is developing oxygen therapeutics to treat life-threatening diseases involving hypoxia. NuvOx's formulations are based on dodecafluoropentane emulsion, or DDFPe. When administered intravenously, DDFPe travels through the bloodstream, arriving first at the lungs to pick up oxygen and then to hypoxic tissue, where it passively delivers the oxygen. Pre-clinical data has shown efficacy in treating hypoxic solid tumors, stroke, sickle cell crisis, hemorrhagic shock, traumatic brain injury and myocardial infarction.
NuvOx completed a Phase Ib/II clinical trial of DDFPe to make tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy in patients with glioblastoma, or GBM, a primary brain cancer, and has an Investigational New Drug Application allowed by the FDA for a prospective, randomized Phase II trial, also in GBM. The company worked closely with TLA to license and commercialize the UA-invented technologies and is participating in clinical trials for treatment of the cancer. NuvOx's president and CEO is Dr. Evan C. Unger, a UA professor of medical imaging and biomedical engineering and a member of the UA Cancer Center, where he is co-leader of the Cancer Imaging Program.
Carol Bender: Michael A. Cusanovich Biosciences Educator of the Year Award
Bender is a University Distinguished Outreach Professor and founding/current director of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program, or UBRP, at the UA. She leads the development and assessment of programs that produce students who are well-prepared to enter graduate and professional degree programs leading to careers in biomedical research and health professions. She was at the forefront of the movement to get undergraduates out of the classroom and into apprentice-style research lab experiences, particularly in STEM fields. Under her inspiring leadership over 28 years, UBRP and other UA-affiliated programs in the life sciences have provided paid research experience to more than 2,300 students. Bender has been widely recognized at the UA and internationally for her innovations in building and nurturing the undergraduate research experience.
The AZBio Awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 11 in the West Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St., Phoenix, and will begin at 4 p.m. (registration opens at 3:30). A reception will follow from 5:30 to 8:30. More information is available at the AZ Bio Awards website, https://www.azbio.org/azbioawards2017.
AZBio holds its annual awards ceremony during Arizona Bioscience Week, which is Oct. 8-14 this year. Programs will include the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society, the world's leading society of professionals devoted to developing and using engineering and technology to advance human health and well-being.