Fourth biotech company comes from scientist's lab

Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009 7:00 am By: Jim Stafford

The Oklahoman

ATLANTA - The fertile mind of University of Oklahoma scientist Dr. Paul DeAngelis has yielded a sugar-based compound that is the basis of a fourth life sciences company.

Austin, Texas-based Emergent Technologies Inc. presented the technology of Caisson Biotech LLC at this week's Biotechnology Industry Organization conference here. Caisson is a subsidiary of Heparinex LLC, the Oklahoma City-based company that makes a synthetic blood anticoagulant.

Caisson Biotech will be based in San Antonio, although the synthesizing capabilities and manufacturing will remain in Oklahoma, said DeAngelis, Caisson's chief scientist.

Heparinex, Hyalose and Choncept all are Oklahoma City-based companies launched out of DeAngelis' research into sugar-based molecules at the OU Health Sciences Center.

Caisson Biotech will commercialize a patent-pending therapeutic delivery system called HEPylation, using a synthetic polymer similar to heparin.

Heparin was developed for use as an anticoagulation drug by DeAngelis, said John Hoopingarner, Emergent's executive vice president and chief development officer and president of Caisson Biotech.

Emergent is a life sciences technologies investment and management company with a portfolio that includes four Oklahoma City-based companies, three of which emerged from DeAngelis' research.

What are the uses?A brainstorming session for new uses of the heparosan polymer that is the "backbone" of the commonly used anticoagulant heparin led to the creation of Caisson Biotech in February, DeAngelis said.

"We were thinking of some other applications we could use it for - in this case, drug delivery," DeAngelis said. "All the cylinders hit with this. It has many good features."

The heparosan polymer provides protection against adverse reactions to the drug it helps deliver to the body, as well as provides a longer-lasting effect because it is not eliminated from the body as quickly as other delivery platforms.

"You don't make antibodies against it, and you don't have your protein enzymes dissolve it," DeAngelis said.

In his presentation to a BIO audience on Tuesday, Hoopingarner described the HEPylation process as a drug delivery platform biologically superior to the current industry standard polymer, called polyethylene glycol, or PEG.

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