3 Medical School Faculty Honored for Entrepreneurial Spirit

Julian L. Ambrus, MD

Kenneth R. Hoffmann, PhD

Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, PhD

Published June 15, 2015

Three faculty in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have been recognized for founding startups and licensing their technology.

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Recipients of the “entrepreneurial spirit” awards at UB’s annual Inventors and Entrepreneurs Reception were:

The UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) organized the awards reception, held this spring.

STOR helps UB researchers commercialize their inventions.

Developing Antibody for Breast Cancer Therapy

Through her startup, Rittenhouse-Olson has created a humanized antibody that may provide breast cancer patients with an additional therapy.

She’s currently perfecting the drug for direct tumor cell killing and blocking metastasis, and preparing it for human clinical trials.

Rittenhouse-Olson launched the company, For-Robin, in 2012. It’s named after her sister, who died from breast cancer.

Bringing 3-D, Digital Analysis to Dentistry, Cardiology

Hoffmann researches new techniques for medical and dental image analysis.

As chief scientific officer of Imagination Software, he helps develop applications to measure bone height and generate 3-D root canals from dental radiographs, and to generate 4-D pacemaker lead data from biplane images.

Cancer Therapy as Autoimmune Disease Tool

Ambrus researches Interleukin-14, a gene that regulates immunologic memory.

His startup company, BOSS Translational Medicine, develops novel therapies for cancers and adapts them to manage certain autoimmune diseases.

He and his colleagues also are developing technology to enhance the efficiency of vaccines.

Medicine, Nuclear Medicine Faculty Awarded Patents

Ambrus was also recognized among the UB inventors awarded U.S. patents in 2014.

He and Long Shen, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine, received a patent for their method of detecting the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome.

The other UB medical school faculty member awarded a patent last year was Munawwar Sajjad, PhD, research associate professor of nuclear medicine.

Sajjad, along with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Ravindra Pandey, PhD, developed a multifunctional agent for cancer imaging and photodynamic therapy. The drug produces better tumor-specificity than current standard agents, particularly for brain and pancreatic cancers.

Due to a long half-life of the radioisotope Iodine-124, the labeled drug also can be transported longer distances.

It has been licensed to the Buffalo biotech company Photolitec.

Peptide Licensed to Industry

In addition to the contributions of the entrepreneurial spirit awardees, medical school faculty developed two other innovations that UB licensed to industry in 2014.

One is a peptide — found originally in a tarantula venom and now synthesized — that blocks the mechanical sensitivity of cells. In preclinical testing, it suppresses atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias due to cardiac infarcts, as well as reducing damage from the infarct.

The FDA has listed it as an orphan drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a designation that recognizes promising methods of treating rare diseases. The peptide also has applications for sickle cell anemia, cardiac arrhythmias, infarcts and other pathologies.

Frederick Sachs, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics, discovered it with his research team during the 1990s.

UB has licensed the peptide to the biochemical supplier Tocris Bioscience as a research reagent.

Test Measures Risk Factor in CVD

The other medical school innovation licensed to industry in 2014 is a test that measures an enzyme implicated in coronary vascular disease.

The test gauges human serum paraoxonase (PON1) enzyme activity, an important risk factor in coronary vascular disease that also plays a critical role in the metabolism of insecticides and other environmental toxins.

The assay was developed by:

The research team also created an antibody to PON1 that has applications for determining PON1 concentration.

UB licensed both technologies to ZeptoMetrix Corporation, a private biotechnology company in Buffalo that has commercialized several other assay kits developed by UB researchers.