One step closer with grant

Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 7:00 am By: by Brian Brus

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY - Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp. will soon be establishing a new laboratory and taking a big step closer to commercialization of a new Crohn's disease treatment, thanks to a nearly $300,000 grant from OCAST, Chief Executive Scott Rollins said.

"This is an important step in bringing Oklahoma to a level where drugs like this can be developed and a lot of the work be done here, as opposed to sending the work out to other states," said Rollins, who is the lead researcher in the venture.

"And once this lab is up and going, there are a lot of other early-stage companies that could plug into this as well," he said.

Rollins' team made a proposal to OCAST, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, to construct a pharmaceutical drug development bioassay lab in Oklahoma that the state is currently lacking, officials said in discussing the $295,975 award. Bioassays are necessary for testing the presence, concentration, potency and other attributes of drugs and are required by the FDA to support preclinical and clinical safety and efficacy studies.

"Selexys Pharmaceutical Corporation is another of Oklahoma's growing number of R&D-based commercial businesses that showcase the commercialization effort now under way in our state," OCAST Executive Director Michael Carolina said. "An Oklahoma bioassay laboratory means lower costs for state-based research projects and provides an asset that draws researchers and projects from outside the state. That is the kind of economic development that Oklahoma is building through OCAST and its partners."

Selexys was one of 10 peer-reviewed research projects from across the state recently approved for about $1.7 million in Oklahoma Applied Research Support awards, which require matching funds that, Carolina said, extend their economic effects.

Grant-winning projects range from stain-resistant nanocoatings to developing techniques for pipe repair in earthquake zones. Fengxia Qi of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, for example, is lead researcher in a project to develop a lantibiotic drug using a new class of antibiotics that holds enormous promise to address the current crisis arising from the spread of infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria. That project was awarded nearly $90,000.

And Robert Floyd of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation is investigating an ear treatment that promises to prevent permanent hearing loss caused by exposure to acute noise. That project also was awarded $90,000.

Projects in Ardmore, Stillwater, Norman and Tulsa also received funds.

Rollins already had taken another drug through development and marketing while working in Connecticut. He said he wanted to move back to his home state to set up shop here and help Oklahoma's economy. The OCAST grant and a relationship with Oklahoma City-based Cytovance Biologics, the contract manufacturer for Selexys, will allow him to do just that.

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