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AhR Pharma and WARF sign exclusive license for cancer-fighting hormone

August 13, 2012 By Janet Kelly

AhR Pharmaceuticals Inc. and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) have signed an exclusive license agreement for ITE, a natural hormone discovered by University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers with properties helpful in treating cancer, obesity and immune system disorders.

ITE is a hormone for a receptor named aryl hydrocarbon receptor, which mediates a series of important biological and pharmacological processes in the body. Recent studies on animal models have demonstrated that ITE may be effective in treating cancer and obesity.

The hormone was discovered by a research team led by the university’s veteran inventor and biochemist Hector F. DeLuca and including research associate Jiasheng (Jason) Song, who subsequently founded Madison-based AhR Pharmaceuticals and serves as its chief scientific officer. WARF, the private nonprofit technology transfer organization for UW–Madison, manages the patents related to the ITE discovery.

“We are pleased to make this important announcement,” says Song. “WARF is a national leader in university technology transfer due to its long history in managing patents on inventions developed at UW–Madison, an internationally renowned research university.”

According to Song, in addition to securing a license through WARF for the intellectual property rights, discoveries made by two research teams have significantly enhanced the possibility for successful development of this unique technology. He explained that following initial studies completed by DeLuca’s team, scientists at AhR Pharmaceuticals conducted additional in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies to verify the feasibility of developing ITE-based therapies.

Song founded AhR Pharmaceuticals to develop ITE into an efficacious and sustainable but low side effect therapeutic agent to combat cancer, obesity and disorders related to imbalanced actions of the immune system. The short-term focus of the company is developing ITE-based agents as cancer treatments.

“We are excited about the commercial prospects for AhR Pharmaceuticals based on the early results of its preclinical proof-of-concept with ITE,” says Mark Stoveken, WARF licensing manager. “The data that has been generated is promising and will enable the company to attract the funds needed for continued development and the eventual establishment of a partnership with a large pharmaceutical organization.”