Rutgers Licenses Promising Mechanism for Treating Cancer to Company Associated with BioMotiv

Z53 Therapeutics, a biotechnology startup company, has been formed to develop technology from a Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey researcher.

BioMotiv, a drug-development accelerator associated with The Harrington Project, has created a new biotechnology startup company, Z53 Therapeutics, to discover and develop new agents for the treatment of p53-dependent cancers using a technology from Rutgers University.

The company has licensed intellectual property that originated in the laboratory of Darren Carpizo, M.D., Ph.D., at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey with the discovery that small molecules can act as zinc metallochaperones to shuttle zinc across cell membranes and reactivate mutant p53. As part of his drug discovery research, Carpizo established collaborations with scientists from Rutgers Translational Sciences and in the lab of Stewart Loh, Ph.D., at SUNY Upstate Medical University. The agreement among Z53 Therapeutics, Rutgers, and SUNY Upstate provides both a license to the IP and funding to continue the research.

The p53 protein has been called the “the guardian of the human genome” for its central role in suppressing tumor formation. The gene encoding p53 is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer with a large number of mutations resulting in a defect in the protein’s structure due to impairment in the ability of the protein to bind zinc (so-called zinc deficient mutant p53).

“Scientists have understood the central role of mutated p53 in cancer and have been studying this protein for over three decades,” said Carpizo, who is a surgical oncologist and associate professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “What we have done is identify a novel mechanism to reactivate p53 that has been mutated in cancer cells, and thereby selectively kill the tumor cells that carry this mutation.”

  Dr. Darren Carpizo (photo by Jody Somers)

David Kimball, Ph.D., associate vice president of translational research and research commercialization at Rutgers, explained: “The effective reactivation of mutant p53 is an exciting development in oncology that has eluded drug discovery scientists for years. It also represents a unique opportunity for Rutgers University to demonstrate fully our translational science capabilities. In collaboration with Dr. Carpizo, we will carry out the design and synthesis of novel small molecules that will be carried further into development by Z53 Therapeutics.”

Rutgers Translational Sciences is a unit of the Office of Research and Economic Development, led by Senior Vice President Christopher J. Molloy, Ph.D.

“The rapid progress in identifying a biologically active lead chemical series provides validation for Rutgers’ investment in pre-clinical translational research, which is being led by Dr. Kimball,” Molloy said. “We are pleased that this agreement provides additional resources to allow Dr. Carpizo and our translational sciences team to advance the research on these promising discoveries.” 

“The discoveries made by Dr. Carpizo have great promise,” said Baiju R. Shah, chief executive officer of BioMotiv. “We are looking forward to partnering with him in developing those discoveries in Z53 Therapeutics.”

Carpizo is a Harrington Scholar-Innovator whose work has been supported by the Harrington Discovery Institute of University Hospitals in Cleveland. His laboratory is also funded by the National Cancer Institute, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The small molecule drug discovery efforts at Rutgers Translational Sciences have been supported by the Office of Research and Economic Development.

About RutgersRutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university. Established in 1766 and celebrating a milestone 250th anniversary in 2016, the university is the eighth oldest higher education institution in the United States. More than 67,000 students and 22,000 faculty and staff learn, work, and serve the public at Rutgers locations across New Jersey and around the world. Rutgers University–New Brunswick is the only public institution in New Jersey represented in the prestigious Association of American Universities. Rutgers is a member of the Big Ten Conference and its academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of 15 world-class research universities. Rutgers is among the top 30 universities nationally for total R&D funding and last year achieved an 18.3 percent increase in overall funding for research and sponsored programs over the previous year, from $517.6 million in fiscal year 2014 up to $612.5 million in fiscal year 2015. The Office of Research and Economic Development is a central point for industry to access Rutgers and offers a website designed for the business community, businessportal.rutgers.edu

About BioMotivBioMotiv is the mission-driven accelerator associated with The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development, a $250 million national initiative for advancing medicine centered at University Hospitals in Cleveland. The focus is to accelerate breakthrough discoveries from research institutions into therapeutics for patients through an innovative model that efficiently aligns capital and collaborations. The company leverages an experienced team and advisory board to select, fund, and actively manage and advance a portfolio of drug development programs. Learn more at www.biomotiv.com.

About SUNY Upstate – SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York and the region's largest employer with over 9,000 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York and anchored by its four colleges—Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions and Graduate Studies (biomedical sciences), Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care. Its biomedical research focuses on the most prevalent human diseases, especially cancer, diabetes, heart disease, nervous system disorders, vision, and infectious diseases, building upon expertise in structural, molecular and systems biology. The Upstate University Health System serves 1.8 million people, often the most seriously ill and injured, at Upstate University Hospital, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital, and numerous satellite sites across upstate New York. Research Administration at Upstate, which includes the Offices of Technology Transfer, Sponsored Programs and Clinical Trials, assists companies seeking new technologies or interested in working with Upstate researchers or clinicians (http://www.upstate.edu/researchadmin/).