Dr. Geoffrey Clark

Dr. Geoffrey Clark; Photo courtesy UofL

A University of Louisville-born invention that may help inhibit the pathway for cancer now has a commercial partner.

California biotechnology company Qualigen Therapeutics has signed a license agreement for the technology at UofL.  

Qualigen, a company focused on developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, plans to fund continued development with UofL to ready the technology for market.

The technology works by targeting the RAS protein, which sends signals that regulate when and where the body produces and grows new cells. Co-inventor of the technology Geoffrey Clark, PhD, said that if the protein mutates, it becomes a “stuck-accelerator pedal.” Clark, who is a UofL professor of pharmacology and toxicology, said, “When it becomes mutated, the accelerator’s jammed on, with cells continuing to grow and ultimately becoming a cancerous tumor.”

The drug targets only the active RAS protein and, so far, has little toxic effect on healthy cells. Many current non-targeted treatments, such as chemotherapy, can hurt both healthy and cancerous cells, leading to painful side effects. By some estimates, targeting this mutation could stop the growth of at least a third of human tumors.

Qualigen holds an exclusive license to the technology through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which works with startups and industry to commercialize university-owned technologies. This license agreement builds on a sponsored research agreement with Qualigen for the development of several small-molecule RAS Inhibitor drug candidates.