Oklahoma science, technology forum to weigh research funding’s benefits
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2015 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
The journey from discovery in a research laboratory to commercial use of a new drug is filled with obstacles, setbacks and the certainty that millions of dollars will be required to advance it against long odds.
Sometimes difficult questions need to be asked. For example, what is all this research money getting us?
That is one of many topics that will be addressed by more than 300 research and economic development professionals from across the nation at the 2015 State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) Conference on Oct. 26-28 at the Cox Convention Center.
University of Oklahoma researcher Paul DeAngelis, Ph.D., has no difficulty addressing the topic of what the research dollars are bringing society.
DeAngelis is Presidential Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and chief scientific officer of four Oklahoma City-based biopharmaceutical companies that emerged from his OU laboratory.
DeAngelis has received support from the state of Oklahoma through the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) to support ongoing research into sugar polymers. From this initial support, millions of dollars in private and federal research dollars followed.
“The funding allowed us to develop our novel sugar synthesis platforms, make various prototype samples and test these new molecules in animals,” DeAngelis said. “The OCAST data helped us get National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, as well as enter into several commercial contracts with various companies.”
Here is the bottom line on benefits from DeAngelis’ research: The long-chain sugar polymers developed in the DeAngelis laboratory aid in drug delivery, are processed into gels that reduce pain, facilitate eye surgery and serve many other medical uses.
Caisson Biotech, one of the companies that emerged out of DeAngelis’ research, signed a $167 million licensing deal in 2014 with pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk for use of the sugar polymer technology in the development of drugs for diseases such as diabetes. That is revenue flowing into Oklahoma from an international corporation.
“The groundbreaking research and resulting commercial successes of Dr. Paul DeAngelis are evidence that an investment in innovation can yield big dividends,” said C. Michael Carolina, executive director of OCAST. “Dr. DeAngelis is but one of many who are contributing to the growth and diversification of our state’s economy.”
OCAST is a key element in Oklahoma’s technology-based economic development initiatives that also include its partners in i2E, Inc., the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and the New Product Development Center as Oklahoma State University.
Envy of world
The mix of research support, business expertise and investment funding has created a supportive environment for researchers and entrepreneurs across Oklahoma that is the envy of their peers nationwide, DeAngelis said.
“We are lucky here in Oklahoma,” he said. “The majority of my colleagues around the world cannot believe that we are getting such good support. It is important to have vision by planting seeds for the future if you want a good harvest for the future.”
“That harvest is both innovation and talent, essential for any healthy field and area to prosper.”
OCAST and i2E Inc. are two of the Oklahoma sponsors of the 2015 SSTI Conference that also includes host sponsor, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, along with the Presbyterian Health Foundation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, General Electric Corp., OG&E, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Tulsa Regional Chamber.