UH, MDACC Researchers Earn Inventor Award for Pre-transplant Drug

Researchers from the University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) and The University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) recently were honored for dramatically enhancing the safety of stem cell transplantation for leukemia patients by developing intravenous formulations of a pre-transplant drug.

The inventors - MDACC Professor Borje S. Andersson, M.D., Ph.D., UHCOP Professor Diana S-L. Chow, Ph.D., and Harshal P. Bhagwatwar, Ph.D., a 1995 UHCOP alumnus now working in the pharmaceutical industry in India - recently received the Inventor of the Year Award from the Houston Intellectual Property Law Association (HIPLA). This year marks the first time UH has been honored with the award.

Used as a conditioning agent for leukemia patients prior to stem cell transplantation, Busulfan (IV Busulfex®) has resulted in a 10-fold reduction in the three-month, post-transplantation mortality rate of patients. Today, more than 65 percent of all myeloid leukemia patients transplanted in North America receive an intravenous Busulfan-based pre-transplant regimen.

"This invention has changed the standard of care in stem cell transplantation and greatly improved patients' quality of life in the U.S. and throughout the world," said Chow, who also holds an adjunct faculty position at MDACC. "Until our team developed the intravenous formulations that bypass the liver, Busulfan was only administered orally and led to unpredictable serious side effects, including lethal liver failure in as many as one of every four or five patients undergoing transplantations."

The researchers have been awarded two U.S. patents and one international patent for Busulfan (IV Busulfex®) since 1995, and the product was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999.

"This award is a great honor and accomplishment not only for us and our many colleagues, but for the patients and their families who encouraged our work," said Andersson, who also holds an adjunct faculty position at UHCOP.

Now marketed in more than 40 countries by Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals, IV Busulfex® has generated more than $40 million in sales as an orphan drug, and more than $4.3 million in royalties for UH - making it the most profitable patent in university history.

HIPLA is an organization of intellectual property lawyers and law student affiliates dedicated to promoting development and understanding of Intellectual Property Law, including its annual presentation of Inventor of the Year Award since 1983. Past recipients of the award include such luminaries as Dr. Denton Cooley, famed heart surgeon and Texas Heart Institute founder, and the late Richard Smalley of Rice University, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for co-inventing the buckminsterfullerene (aka "buckyball").