About Jeffrey Hasday, MD, and Paul Shapiro, PhD
Hasday, the Dr. Herbert Berger Professor of Medicine and division head, pulmonary and critical care medicine, School of Medicine, and Shapiro, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and associate dean of research and advanced graduate studies, School of Pharmacy, are co-inventors of technology focused on treatments for inflammatory diseases, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), that has been licensed to GEn1E Lifesciences, a biotech company based in Silicon Valley.
Working to develop compounds to target inflammatory processes — with funding from UM Ventures, which is UMB’s tech transfer arm, and the UMB Institute for Clinical and Translational Research — Hasday, Shapiro, and their research team discovered a novel class of drugs that selectively inhibits the function of p38 MAPK that promotes disease-causing inflammation but preserves its beneficial functions. Previous approaches to target this enzyme had been unsuccessful because the drugs that had been developed turned off the enzyme, which blocked its beneficial effects and caused unwanted toxicity.
GEn1E Lifesciences purchased exclusive rights to the therapeutics, known as the p38α mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor program. The company hopes the therapeutics will help its efforts to combat ARDS, which kills 40 percent of the people that contract it due to excess lung inflammation and has few therapeutic options.
“When GEn1E came around we realized that a full-time CEO with experience in fundraising and drug regulation would give us the best chance of advancing our new drugs quickly. It has certainly worked out that way as we have gone from discovery to Phase II clinical testing in six years. I believe that is much faster than if we had gone the start-up company route.” — Hasday
“We are evaluating these compounds and their potential for treating other diseases with inflammatory components including asthma, muscular dystrophies, traumatic brain injury, and different types of cancer.” — Shapiro
“Drs. Hasday and Shapiro are great examples of entrepreneurial-minded inventors at UMB. Early on, they saw the commercial potential of the compounds they were developing. By working closely with our technology transfer and commercialization team, they were able to take advantage of several UMB funding initiatives to advance and de-risk their technology, so we could ultimately license it to biotech company GEn1E Lifesciences.” — Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, associate vice president for technology transfer and UMB’s executive director of UM Ventures