UIC: An incubator for successful start-ups

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers are leading the way in bringing new technologies and drugs to industry and consumers — this is evident, in part, by the number of startups launched from UIC research.

“There is a strong interest among investors to support startups in tech and pharmaceuticals. UIC’s strong translational research engine — from health sciences to physical sciences — has aligned perfectly with companies eager to get new products to the market,” said Suseelan Pookote, director of the Office of Technology Management at UIC.

UIC holds 281 active licenses and 436 patents — 177 are U.S. patents and 259 are worldwide — and is the home of 34 active startups, 17 of which are in Illinois.

“It is a source of pride that our researchers have produced compelling discoveries that are feeding the U.S. technology and health science industries,” Pookote said. “Because we reinvest part of the revenues from our licenses back into our translational research programs, we’ve been able create a lot of momentum among our research programs and advance our key research priorities that benefits everyone: consumers, patients and up-and-coming young researchers.”

Many of these startups are getting noticed, securing new funding and, in some cases, moving drugs through clinical trials toward approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Actuate Therapeutics, a private biopharmaceutical company launched with UIC and Northwestern research, achieved a major milestone recently by securing $21.7 million in financing, allowing the company to expand its ongoing Phase 1/2 clinical trials and advance research into other potential disease applications.

Actuate’s star compound 9-ING-41 was developed by UIC researchers Alan Kozikowski and Irina Gaisina from the College of Pharmacy. 9-ING-41, which is named after co-inventor Gaisina, is a highly potent and selective inhibitor that may lead to significant tumor regression and increased overall survival for some cancer patients. It is currently in clinical trials.

Research from UIC’s Dr. Sandeep Jain has also fueled new startups. His drug brimonidine, a treatment for ocular graft versus host disease, has been licensed to Ocugen, an early stage biopharmaceutical company developing therapies for rare eye diseases. As an Ocugen science consultant, Jain is spearheading the development of brimonidine eye drops through clinical trials.

Ocugen recently entered into a definitive merger agreement with another company, Histogenics, which will create a publically traded company and advance its drug pipelines, including Jain’s brimonidine treatment.

Other UIC-born startups with recent noteworthy accomplishments include Dystrogen, Enzyme by Design, EpiDestiny, G1 Therapeutics and TTC Oncology, among others.  

UIC currently has 24 new drugs in the pipeline for potential approval from the FDA, pending positive results in pre-clinical (11) and clinical (13) trials, including two drugs in human clinical trials for treatment-resistant breast cancers.

More information on UIC patents, licenses and starts up is available online.