National Cancer Institute (NCI) Awards Isoprene Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a Two-Year $2 Million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant

University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) startup is part of University’s New Ventures Initiative, a highly selective program that works to accelerate commercialization and exit strategies

BALTIMORE, Sept. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Isoprene Pharmaceuticals, Inc., an early-stage small molecule oncology company developing oral therapeutics for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and other cancers, today announced that the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) NCI has awarded the company a two-year $2 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Direct-to-Phase II grant. This grant will support ongoing advanced pre-clinical studies intended to lead to the filing of an investigational new drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as a prelude to Phase I clinical trials. Vidya P. Ramamurthy, PhD, Isoprene’s chief scientific officer, and Vincent C. O. Njar, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of Isoprene and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), are the principal investigators for the program.

“Currently, there are no effective therapies for patients with TNBC, an aggressive and highly metastatic disease. Isoprene’s orally dosed novel small molecules function as protein degraders, breaking down protein kinases Mnk1/2,” stated Rana Quraishi, PhD, chief business officer of Isoprene and director of UMB’s New Ventures Initiative. “In TNBC xenograft models, the molecules have been shown to result in remarkable dose-dependent anti-tumor activity with no apparent host toxicity.”

Isoprene’s orally bioavailable lead molecule exhibits remarkable dose-dependent antitumor (91% to 100% growth inhibition) and antimetastatic (~80% inhibition) activities against cell line and patient-derived TNBC xenograft models. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that targeting Mnk-eIF4E/mTORC1 signaling with a potent Mnk1/2 degrader is a novel therapeutic strategy that can be developed as monotherapy for the effective treatment of patients with both primary and metastatic TNBC.

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