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LIU Pharmacy Partnership Brings Faculty and Students Into the Fight Against Cancer

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When Oconova Therapeutics presented its latest breakthroughs at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, it introduced “ON 123300,” a third-generation molecule with “the potential to exhibit single agent activity” with potential application to breast cancer and hematological cancers, among others.

It’s the product of a partnership between Oconova and LIU Pharmacy, where pharmaceutics professor David Taft and pharmacology professor Vikas Sehdev have been working together to help advance the fight against cancer.

“These molecules are made to target mechanisms in the cancer cells,” Sehdev said, “so that they can be inhibited. The idea is to come up with therapy that will spare the normal cells and kill the cancer cells.”

It’s the kind of partnership that was anticipated when LIU opened its state-of-the-art research institutes in the Wet Lab Building — the Lachman Institute for Pharmaceutical Analysis, the Samuel J. and Joan B. Williamson Institute for Pharmacometrics, and the Natoli Institute for Industrial Pharmacy Research and Development — which have since been joined by LIU’s Cancer Research Laboratories. The facilities available at LIU make the University an attractive partner for industry, advancing the research interests of the faculty and providing powerful opportunities for collaboration.

“My lab and Dr. Taft’s lab complement each other when it comes to this work,” Sehdev said. ”Any drug molecule that you give to a patient, the body does something to the drug. The body will absorb the drug, the body will make the drug available at the target site — in this case, a cancerous tissue — and then the body will get rid of it. All those things are evaluated by Dr. Taft’s lab, the pharmacokinetics: what the body does to the drug. My part comes in figuring out what the drug does to the body: how the drug affects the cancer cell. When we put the two together, that’s what the pharmaceutical industry is looking for in developing new compounds.

“The thing that is unique about LIU is that we can actually offer that we can offer any pharmaceutical company experience with regard to categorizing these molecules and making formulations. One of the reasons Oconova works with us is because we can do all these things over there.”

For LIU, partnerships like the one with Oconova represent a powerful opportunity to expose students to the world of industrial pharmacy research.

“It gives our students a unique environment where they’re exposed to the kind of rigors that are involved in any research center,” Sehdev said, and how academia and industry can collaborate together. It gives our students a lot more exposure.”

More than that, it gives them a role in helping to fight disease and impact the lives of patients around the world.

Posted 06/05/2017

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