Colorado State University is launching a center that will aid university researchers across the state in their efforts to discover new medications to treat human and animal illnesses. The Colorado Center for Drug Discovery received $2.25 million from the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The funds for the center were allocated through the Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant program. The Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant program was created by legislation co-sponsored by Northern Colorado’s representatives Jim Riesberg and Bob Bacon.
The center will be based at Colorado State University but is part of a statewide initiative to foster bioscience commercialization infrastructure in Colorado. The center will be directed by seasoned biopharmaceutical leaders Terry Opgenorth and Joe Guiles. The two provide leadership to the CSU’s Supercluster structure within the CSU Research Foundation and its subsidiary, CSU Ventures Inc. Guiles is chief operating officer of MicroRx, the business development arm of the Infectious Disease Supercluster, and Opgenorth is chief operating officer of NeoTREX, the business development arm of the Cancer Supercluster.
The new Research Innovation Center building, located on the Foothills Research Campus and scheduled for completion in April 2010, will provide a laboratory and chemical library space for the center. In addition, 17,000 square feet of the building will be managed as a biotech incubator to support startup companies, such as those that may come out of center-sponsored projects
“University faculty do innovative biomedical research,” said Guiles. “However, linking together the vast array of research expertise found within Colorado’s research universities for a unified purpose is a challenge in an academic setting. The center will link key research expertise to create early stage discovery projects that identify molecules with proven therapeutic potential, and provide specific resources to make it happen.”
New research collaborations with faculty labs across the state will be forged into virtual teams through center sponsorship. The center will provide incentives for collaboration through access to funding for medicinal chemistry and pharmacokinetic research, two essential components required to optimize for drug-like properties of candidate compounds.
The center’s pharmacokinetics unit partners with the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s Pharmacology Core located at Colorado State University. Pharmacokinetics is the portion of research that looks at whether new drugs reach the disease tissue and circulate in the body at levels that are effective and safe. The center also will include a chemical library, which is an inventory of compounds that helps researchers identify compounds that may work against diseases. The library provides a starting point, or a lead compound, for the long road of developing a potential medication.
Finally, an important aspect of the center will be to provide access to former pharmaceutical industry scientists who will serve as consultants to the emerging drug discovery teams. These experts will provide context through lessons learned in industry to guide drug discovery projects within the center. They also will provide exceptional educational opportunities for university faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students to learn about pharmaceutical research and development technology and process.
“The creation of this center will arm researchers from across the state with resources they need to develop new drugs to treat unmet medical needs,” said Opgenorth. “It also will create jobs as those discoveries move forward in the development process. Full development through Federal Drug Agency approval and ultimate commercialization will require partnering with a biopharma company or creation of a new company around the technology. In either case, the bioscience economy in Colorado benefits.”