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Multiple myeloma research shows promise

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UAMS press release

A discovery stemming from multiple myeloma research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) could lead to significant new treatments for bone-related cancers and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

The research by John D. Shaughnessy Jr., Ph.D., in the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy (MIRT), led to applications for two patents related to a molecule found to be the key to bone destruction.

“The dream of any medical researcher is to see a discovery lead to the development of a new therapy,” said Shaughnessy, director of the basic science division of MIRT. “Even more satisfying is the realization that our discovery might impact not only multiple myeloma but other diseases.”

Through UAMS BioVentures, the patents pending have been licensed to a pharmaceutical company. While specific terms of the license agreement remain confidential, UAMS will receive annual payments until the first commercial sale, then a percentage of drug sales.

Shaughnessy’s research has shown promising lab results for blunting the molecule’s ability to destroy bone and even cause regression of tumors, as well as increasing bone density in bones without tumors.

In addition to multiple myeloma, the research could lead to treatments for other metabolic or cancer-related bone diseases.

Shaughnessy’s original research discovery on the molecule was published in the December 25, 2003, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Using state-of-the-art genomic profiling methods, Shaughnessy and other researchers from MIRT and the UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center also discovered that myeloma is not a single disease but consists of distinct subtypes that Shaughnessy predicted will improve the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of patients. That study was published in the September 2006 issue of the journal Blood.

UAMS BioVentures, which negotiated the licensing agreement, was formed a decade ago to help UAMS researchers get their discoveries into the marketplace, whether through licensing agreements or forming start-up companies.

“The discoveries by Dr. Shaughnessy and his team of scientists are producing intellectual property that is of tremendous value to medicine for the delivery of better health care,” said BioVentures director Michael Douglas, Ph.D. “UAMS and Arkansas are fortunate to have a medical research enterprise that can deliver discovery and intellectual property with great potential in the marketplace.”

In addition to assisting with licensing of UAMS intellectual property, BioVentures has helped numerous start-up companies get UAMS-generated products to consumers. Its efforts have led to the establishment of companies providing 316 highly skilled jobs, a total annual payroll today of $15.7 million and salaries that average $49,638 a year.

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