UM brain disorder research will move to clinical testing


MISSOULA, Mont. - A brain disorder research project at the University of Montana will move to clinical testing. A Wisconsin company, focused on discovering and developing medications for the brain, has entered into an exclusive agreement with the University. It's a big deal for both parties.

The research has potential to treat brain cancer and possibly other disorders like glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor within the central nervous system.

"It's important and it's very exciting," said UM Regents Professor Richard Bridges, with the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Bridges says his team has had a partnership with Promentis Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about four to five years but this agreement is different.

This research has taken about 20 years and there's still more to come but Bridges and his team are one step closer to turning a discovery into a drug.

"In some types of brain tumors, the protein that we've studied is expressed at very high amounts -- abnormally high amounts -- which means that tumors probably need them in order to survive, and the compounds that we've been developing inhibit that protein," said Bridges.

Promentis Pharmaceuticals will help advance UM's patented research to a clinical setting.

"I think it's very valuable and very meaningful for patients. I think this license agreement is the culmination of work and it's really an exciting milestone for what's been a really productive team," said President and CEO of Promentis Pharmaceuticals Chad Beyer.

It's welcome news for both sides. The agreement will help Bridges and his team understand side effects.

"How it's metabolized, how it can be delivered to the brain. Those are all very important questions, but those fall out of the expertise that we have in the school of pharmacy," said Bridges.

Clinical testing will happen in about one to two years. In the meantime, Promentis Pharmaceuticals will help UM identify a lead candidate, which is a drug prototype with the best properties.

Bridges says that when it does come time for clinical testing, they will most likely test on animal models, like rats that have tumors, to see if they can control the growth and size of those tumors.