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UTHSC News: UTHSC Research Spinoffs Gain Momentum with National Business Grants


A recent spate of awards shines a light on the strides UTHSC researchers are making in translating their discoveries into novel solutions for human health and well-being.

Three licensees, two spinoffs founded by UTHSC researchers and one long-standing partner, have received funding from the highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These national programs bridge the gap between basic science performed at non-profit research institutions and the commercialization of resulting innovations. Each award will fund work being done by UTHSC-led research teams to move the development of new drugs forward.

The companies and awards are:

  • Oncternal Therapeutics, Inc., received a $1.8 million SBIR award, $350,000 of which is earmarked for preclinical development of a molecule developed in the UTHSC College of Pharmacy and College of Medicine to treat Kennedy’s Disease, a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by an abnormal androgen receptor protein. The research team includes Ramesh Narayanan, PhD, professor and interim dean for Research in the College of Medicine; and Duane Miller, PhD, professor emeritus in the College of Pharmacy.
  • Oak Ridge Therapeutic Discovery (ORRxD), LLC, received a $249,658 Phase 1 STTR award to optimize small molecules to treat age-related and disuse osteoporosis. The compound, developed through a multicampus collaboration between UTHSC and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, inhibits adipogenesis (formation of fat cells from stem cells) in vitro, and stimulates osteoblast-mediated bone formation while inhibiting bone marrow fat accumulation in vivo. Funding will support a study to de-risk these novel chemical mechanomimetics. The research team includes Darryl Quarles, MD, professor, and Zhousheng Xiao, PhD, associate professor, both in the College of Medicine; Wei Li, PhD, distinguished professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Drug Discovery Center in the College of Pharmacy; and Jeremy Smith, PhD, professor at UT Knoxville and director of the UT/Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Center for Molecular Biophysics.

Please read more at our UTHSC news site.