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A Track Record of Success

Ten to fifteen years is too long for a person with a life-threatening illness to wait for a new treatment or cure, yet that is the average timeframe for potential new drugs to make it to the marketplace. Identifying the underlying cause of a disease is the first step in the drug discovery process.

In the past decade alone, Institute faculty have:

  • Made revolutionary discoveries, based on the convergence of chemistry, physics, engineering and life sciences, for detection and treatment of cancer, infertility, common and rare neurodegenerative diseases, and imaging and manipulation of cell behavior
  • Advanced 75 new drug candidates, medical devices, and diagnostics, collectively, toward clinical trials, including a new class of drugs to treat epilepsy, new compounds for psychiatric treatment, therapeutics for Wilson’s disease, and improved treatment for macular degeneration
  • Spun out 26 new companies have spun out of the Institute and received external investments exceeding $1.5 billion

And the Institute has:

  • Acquired more than 50 new instruments and created new services to accelerate transdisciplinary research
  • Developed new 21st century curricula and activities to support development of next gen scientists working across disciplinary boundaries to address the big questions in biomedical research
  • Raised more than $50 million in new external funding to support these efforts

Attracting Early Stage Investment

Chemistry of Life Processes Institute partners with investment firms to introduce the translational research of some our most innovative faculty members to early stage biotech/pharma investors and industry leaders. These programs ensure continued financial support from the investment community that in turn drives future scientific exploration and innovation. 

In March 2019, CLP and Oppenheimer & Co. co-hosted ‘Biotech Summit by the Lake,’ and all-day investor conference that drew approximately 100 investors, venture firms and biotech and pharmaceutical industry members from across the US for a full day of presentations, a lunchtime panel discussion and networking opportunities. Following the conference, Oppenheimer’s biotech research analysts published an industry report highlighting CLP’s growing reputation as a biotech incubator and major hub for drug discovery and development in the Chicago-region.

Entrepreneur-in-Residence

CLP Institute’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, one of the first academic programs of its kind in the nation, helps move discoveries out of the lab and into clinics.

William Sargent, PhD, provides mentoring in the drug development process, from initiation to FDA marketing approval, to interested researchers across campus looking to explore commercialization. Bill is available on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses to consult with faculty, students and staff interested in developing potential therapies emerging from their translational research. He is currently creating a Target Product Profile (TPP) for compounds under development. The Profile will enable the entrepreneur to start therapeutic development process with the end in mind.

“The TPP is most helpful early on in development, as it sets the road map for achieving the IND and provides a long-term view of what data will be needed to validate claims in the final package insert,” says Bill.  “It’s also a great tool to form the basis of a value proposition and for later interaction with the FDA.”

Bill has over 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry, preceded by 10 years as an independent researcher in academia. He is well-versed in the therapeutic development emerging from local universities, having served as member of the Chicago Innovation Mentors (CIM) program since 2013. Previously, he held senior positions at Pfizer, Hoechst-Roussell Pharmaceuticals, Lorex Pharmaceuticals, Searle, and Pharmacia.  As President and General Manager of Lorex, he oversaw FDA approval for direct to consumer advertising for the lead product Ambien. He led the International launch of Sutent® for renal cell carcinoma and gastrointestinal stromal cancer while Senior Medical Director and Team Leader for the anti-angiogenic portfolio at Pfizer. Bill received a PhD in physiology from the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences where he remained as faculty in Physiology and Biophysics for approximately 10 years.

Consultation appointments can be made via email at bill.sargent@northwestern.edu.

Pioneering Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs

CLP Institute unlocks novel ideas that propel biomedical research forward. Below are just a few examples of the many translational projects making their way through the pipeline:

Protein-Based Mapping of Human Cell Types

One person in the US is diagnosed with a blood cancer approximately every three minutes, according to the American Cancer Society. This startling number led Neil Kelleher, director of Northwestern Proteomics, a CLP-based center for research excellence, to explore how human blood cells mature. His research group uses powerful instruments to analyze how proteins in our blood cells influence their transformation from immature cells in our bone marrow to infection fighters. Changes in these proteins play a role as well in transformations that result in cancer, like leukemia and multiple myeloma. Using a unique approach,

Kelleher’s team can map this process at a high resolution to obtain a complete picture of each protein. Kelleher’s goal is to identify the natural forms of proteins that can make up an identity, or “bar code,” for each type of cell activity to better define different cell types and their relationships. Kelleher’s work has the potential to greatly accelerate efforts to create cell-based therapies, personalized drugs, and improved detection of human disease. 

Kelleher has been successful in driving both technology development and applications of very high performance mass spectrometry in both chemistry and biology and provides ProSight software via the web to over 500 labs around the world.  

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Moving Discoveries Into Society

CLP founding director Thomas V. O’Halloran studies the assembly and characterization of molecules that alter the regulatory biology of transition metal receptors involved in signaling and trafficking pathways. His discoveries have been commercialized to treat triple negative breast cancer, Wilson disease, infectious diseases, and fungal infections.

O’Halloran has co-founded multiple biotech start-up companies including Tactic Pharma, Valence Therapeutics, and Viamet Pharmaceuticals.

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Preventing Cancer Treatment Resistance

One of the biggest obstacles in treating and curing cancer is the tumor cells’ ability to adapt to and resist treatments. There are thousands of mutations in cancer and thousands of genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis. Although many new and effective drugs are available, most ultimately stop working. CLP Institute collaborators Vadim Backman, Igal Szleifer, and Thomas O’Halloran have designed a revolutionary new approach to cancer treatment that can change the physical environment around genes and prevent tumors from adapting to chemotherapy, immunotherapies and targeted therapies.

In 2011, as a result of ongoing research at Backman’s Biophotonics Laboratory at Northwestern, Backman and his team founded Preora Diagnostics. The PWS technology and the company were born . The nascent medical device company is dedicated to designing highly accurate, low-cost, non-invasive testing that will dramatically help with the early detection of several types of cancers.

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New Treatments for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Cancer and Addiction

What if you could design one drug that could work against two completely different health conditions? Master molecule maker Richard Silverman, has created a drug that not only eliminates seizures in a toddler, but also dampens the addictive effects of drugs in animals.
As the use of illicit drugs and prescription opioids in the US continues to rise, Silverman’s efforts have the potential to impact tens of thousands of people living with addiction. Biotech companies have licensed these compounds with both anti-epilepsy and anti-addiction activities and preclinical studies are moving forward.

Silverman’s one-two disease-fighting punch is also making an impact on other fronts, including a new amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) drug that is also showing interesting results against Alzheimer’s disease and a Parkinson’s disease project that also looks promising for treating melanoma.

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Novel Diagnostics and Immunotherapies for Cancer and Heart Disease

A diverse team of Institute collaborators and external partners are making rapid progress in the emerging field of “theranostics,” a term coined by founding CLP Institute faculty member, Thomas Meade, that combines diagnostics and treatment in a single nanomaterials-based oral agent. This strategy simultaneously delivers targeted nano-sized drugs to specific organs and cells along with imaging agents that allow physicians to determine if treatment is delivered to the targeted area and having the desired effect.

Meade has joined forces with fellow Institute investigators Evan Scott, Ming Zhao, and Thomas O’Halloran to develop a new theranostic, or “smart drug,” for diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the developed world. Their theranostic platforms will deliver anti-inflammatory drugs directly to plaques and allow visualization by clinical imaging methods, such as MRI and SPECT/CT. The team is also developing a novel cancer immunotherapy that simultaneously images and tracks tumor-associated lymphatic drainage, a primary route of cancer cell metastasis. Detailed imaging maps of this process would allow clinicians to better assess cancer progression and help direct development of personalized interventions for each patient.

Meade is on to his fourth venture, Ohmx, a 20-employee company in Evanston that is developing electronic handheld devices to detect proteins such as those generated from heart attacks. He has more than 80 patents and was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic inventors. 

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Companies Founded by CLP Faculty

Founder: Andrew Mazar
Co-Founders: Francis Giles, Andrey Ugolkov

Founder: William Klein
Co-Founder: Grant Krafft

Founder: Vadim Backman
Co-Founders: Andrew Cittadine, Michael Goldberg, Hemant K. Roy

Founder: Lonnie Shea
Co-Founder: Stephen Miller

Founder: Colby Thaxton
Co-Founder: Chad Mirkin

Founder: Neil Kelleher
Co-Founder: Phil Compton

Founder: Richard Silverman
Co-Founder: Pfizer

Founder: Neil Kelleher
Co-Founder: Regan Thomson

Founder: Andrew Mazar
Co-Founders: Thomas O’Halloran, Andrey Ugolkov

Founder: Vadim Backman
Co-Founders: Hemant K. Roy, Hariharan Subramanian

Founder: Phillip Messersmith

Founder: Thomas Meade

Founders: Cheng Sun, Hao Zheng

Founder: Olga Volpert
Co-Founder: Jack Henkin

Founder: Thomas Meade

Founder: Vadim Backman

Founder: Thomas O’Halloran
Co-Founder: Chandler Robinson

Founder: Karl Scheidt
Co-Founder: Raymond Bergan

Founder: Richard Silverman
Co-Founders: Dmitri Krainc

Founder: Jack Henkin
Co-Founders: Andrew Mazar, Olga Volpert

Founder: Guillermo Ameer
Co-Founders: Melina R. Kibbe, Antonio Webb

Founder: Thomas O’Halloran
Co-Founder: Robert Schotzinger

Northwestern Partners in Entrepreneurship

Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO)

INVO catalyzes the translation of Northwestern innovations to benefit the public and promote economic growth. In order to maximize that outcome, Northwestern follows important principles when licensing university technology.

NewCures Fund

NewCures is a Northwestern initiative that focuses on accelerating biomedical research from early discovery stages to more advanced clinical stages for the benefit of the patients. The NewCures Fund aligns with existing resources to propel promising therapies towards commercialization.

Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR) advise and assist faculty and students who are launching startups and commercializing IP. They are a resource for developing business concepts, making contacts with the market, connecting to investors, and forming organizational frameworks.

Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC)

The CBC stimulates collaboration among researchers at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and others to accelerate discovery that transforms biomedical research and improves the health of humankind.