WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Buoyed by continued
successes of a novel method for targeting drugs inside the
body, Louis S. Kucera, Ph.D. has formed Kucera Pharmaceutical
Co. as a spinoff from Wake Forest University School of Medicine
and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The technique involves the coupling of compounds called
phospholipids -- newly developed by Kucera and his colleagues
-- with existing drugs, which markedly increases the
effectiveness of those drugs against cancer and viruses,
including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. The combinations often mean
that chemotherapy can be given orally rather than
Kucera, professor of microbiology and immunology, already holds
five U.S. patents and several pending patents in relation to
his research, and Wake Forest and UNC have licensed those
patents to Kucera Pharmaceutical, which was formally created
last week, and which already has its first infusion of venture
Kucera said R.H. (Russ) Read, who has more than 25 years of
experience in the pharmaceutical industry, mostly in the sales
and marketing of antiviral drugs, would be president and CEO of
the new company. Kucera himself will be listed as senior vice
president and founder and his son, Gregory L. Kucera, Ph.D.,
research assistant professor of internal medicine
(hematology/oncology) will be secretary-treasurer. Both
Kuceras will remain full-time Wake Forest faculty members.
"This technology is applicable to drug delivery not only for
treatment of HIV infections but also for cancer and central
nervous system diseases," said Kucera. "The technology has
broad applications for developing new strategies for the
treatment of human diseases. That's where the excitement comes
The company has been in the works for nearly two years, under
the guidance of Spencer Lemons, director of Wake Forest's
Office of Technology Asset Management. Lemons helped in
finding leadership for the company, working to get venture
capital, and completing a business plan. A key element of the
plan is forming alliances with major drug companies.
"Kucera Pharmaceutical Company is a wonderful technology
transfer story, involving a clever and motivated inventor, a
highly-experienced CEO, a value- added investor, and two
entrepreneurial universities," said Lemons.
Kucera said the new class of phospholipids were synthesized by
a team of researchers at UNC School of Pharmacy in a
collaboration that began in the late 1980s. Those researchers
include Susan Morris-Natschke, Ph.D., Khalid Ishaq, Ph.D. and
Claude Piantadosi, Ph.D.
The key to the new company is the drug delivery system using
the new class of phospholipids, which the company is also
calling pro-drug carriers. In 1988, Kucera demonstrated that
certain phospholipids were active against HIV in human white
blood cells. But he found that when a specific phospholipid --
thioether phospholipid -- was coupled with AZT -- a leading
AIDS drug, it had several distinct advantages.
"The combination markedly reduced the toxicity of AZT," said
Kucera. "And it preferentially targeted lymphoid tissue and
the brain, which serve as reservoirs for HIV infection."
The combination already has gone through phase I and phase II
clinical trials. Large scale clinical trials are expected in
Kucera said the new company is now exploring, with a major drug
company partner, using a similar technique to target two of the
hepatitis viruses, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
He said Greg Kucera was working on combining the new
phospholipid drug delivery system with cancer drugs, and since
the new phospholipids target the lymphoid system and cross the
so-called blood-brain barrier. That means the combination may
be particularly effective against lymphomas, leukemias and
SOURCE Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center