UA Startup ProNeurogen Advances New Therapies for Vascular Dementia, Announces Award of Patents for Intellectual Property

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded two patents to the UA based on the team’s novel approach to treating diseases causing memory loss and cognitive impairment.

Tucson Ariz. – Today, billions of dollars are spent each year on health-care costs related to the treatment of patients with inflammation-related brain disorders such as vascular dementia, yet no FDA-approved therapies exist for for these conditions. In 2013, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson physiology Professor Meredith Hay, PhD, started ProNeurogen, Inc. (link is external), a company based on inventions rising out of Hay’s and her colleagues’ research in neuroscience and cardiovascular neurophysiology.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded two patents to the UA based on the team’s novel approach to treating diseases causing memory loss and cognitive impairment. U.S. Patent 9,670,251 was awarded June 6 and U.S. Patent 9,796,759 was awarded Oct. 24. The patents, both licensed to ProNeurogen, serve as the cornerstone for ProNeurogen’s drug development program.

“There is a great and rapidly growing human need for therapies to treat inflammation-related brain disorders. No family goes untouched by cognitive impairment and diseases leading to increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The new therapeutics being developed based on the intellectual property ensconced in these two patents have significant potential for treating these diseases and improving the lives of millions of patients and their families,” said Hay.

Hay collaborated with Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the UA office that commercializes inventions stemming from research to patent and license the technology.

Rakhi Gibbons, associate director of biomedical and life sciences licensing for TLA, noted: “Research being conducted at the University of Arizona and commercialized by TLA offers dynamic solutions to real human problems. We’re pleased to provide the segue from research labs to human bedside.”  

The technology covered by the patents is a novel peptide therapeutic that targets the treatment and prevention of inflamation-related brain disorders, including vascular dementia. ProNeurogen Therapeutics, a subsidiary of ProNeurogen, Inc., is developing these therapeutics.

ProNeurogen is led by Hay (president); Bruce Coull, MD, professor of neurology and medicine at the UA College of Medicine - Tucson (chief medical officer); Rodney Lax, PhD (director of peptide chemistry); and Chistopher Holmes, PhD (director of CMC and regulatory compliance). The company is supported by a science advisory board comprised of experts in neuroscience, vascular dementia, neurophysiology, psychology, peptide chemistry, glycoengineering and drug development.

Hay, one of the inventors of the peptide, brings 25 years of neuroscience and cardiovascular neurophysiology to the table and is a tenured professor at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. She has generated more than $10 million in external research and development funding and has secured nearly 20 National Institutes of Health and related grants. In addition to serving as a professor of physiology, Hay is a member of the UA Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and the UA BIO5 Institute, a professor of psychology, and a professor physiological sciences with the UA Graduate Interdisciplinary Program. She served as executive vice president and provost of the university from 2008 to 2011. Co-inventors of the technology include John Knohilas, PhD (UA Department of Physiology) and Robin Polt, PhD (UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry).

“The work underlying the awarding of these two patents exemplifies the kind of ground-breaking and life-changing innovations being developed at the University of Arizona,” says Charles B. Cairns, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. “These technologies will help patients and their families both in Arizona and across the nation.”

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