NEW BRUNSWICK – A drug proven to kill leukemia cells in animals is closer to reaching patients after a Rutgers School of Dental Medicine researcher was awarded nearly $1 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund the process of getting FDA approvals.
Scott Kachlany, an associate professor in the department of oral biology, and his company, Actinobac Biomed, Inc., were awarded a grant from the NIH/National Cancer Institute to develop a potential treatment for blood cancers and autoimmune inflammatory diseases.
Several years ago, Kachlany discovered that a protein produced by the same bacterium that causes periodontal disease eliminates diseased white blood cells. He established Actinobac Biomed to develop the protein as a drug, named Leukothera, which is made from the same biologic agent that specifically targets and depletes these cells.
With the NIH grant, Actinobac will perform preclinical studies that will allow testing to begin on humans, possibly within the next two years. Kachlany is hopeful that Leukothera could potentially be put on the market within six to eight years.
"The goal is to treat cancer and allow it to go into remission,'' said Kachlany.
Kachlany believes Leukothera could prove more effective than other cancer treatments because it kills cells rapidly and with fewer side effects. He has also found that it can be used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, type 1 diabetes, lupus, dry eye, asthma and psoriasis.
"To our knowledge, Leukothera exhibits a mechanism of killing cells that is unlike any other drug on the market and could offer patients a new therapeutic option,'' said Kachlany.
The NIH funding helps small business applicants collaborate with research institutions. It will allow Actinobac to manufacture clinical grade Leukothera and test on animals using FDA guidelines.
The project is being conducted in collaboration with Joseph R. Bertino, chief scientific officer at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. After these preclinical studies are completed, Actinobac can file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA and begin human clinical trials.
"This NIH grant supports our assertion that Actinobac scientists are working on breakthrough research that can make a tremendous difference for people suffering with leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases," said George F. Heinrich, vice chair and CEO of Foundation Venture Capital Group, an affiliate of New Jersey Health Foundation, which originally funded Actinobac.