University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center Makes $1 Million In-Kind Investment In Zellerx Corporation To Develop Natural-Killer Cell Therapy For Cancer
PITTSBURGH, February 7, 2005 — The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) today announced that it will provide services valued at more than $1 million to ZelleRx Corp., a biopharmaceutical company developing cancer treatment candidates based on its proprietary natural-killer (NK) cell line, in exchange for equity in the company.
The services provided will include support of Phase I and Phase II clinical trials for ZRx101, ZelleRx’s novel cancer treatment. ZRx101 was developed using the company’s proprietary natural-killer cell line, NK-92. The trials will focus first on melanoma, however, later trials may include other cancers.
To date, 25 patients have been treated with ZRx101 for renal and melanoma cancers in Chicago, and advanced cancers in young adults (leukemia and sarcomas) in Frankfurt, Germany. The company recently announced clinical data from the first 12 patients of the U.S. trial at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and has assumed the Investigational New Drug application with the FDA previously held by the inventor Hans Klingemann, M.D.
“The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute is the ideal clinical development partner for ZRx101 because it is home to the world’s leading experts on natural killer cells, and both the research and clinical teams are highly experienced in the use of biologic therapies for cancer,” said Gary Keller, president and CEO of ZelleRx.
NK cells are the first cells of the body's immune defense system that seek to search out and destroy cancer tumors and other infected cells. The use of NK cells for cancer therapy has emerged as a leading novel approach to treating cancer since biologic therapies can have fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
NK cells were originally identified in the early 1970s at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the laboratory of Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., who, after leaving the NIH in 1985, joined the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute as its founding director.
“It is exciting for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute to play a leading role in exploring the therapeutic effects of this very potent, standardized NK cell therapy, which I believe has great potential to benefit patients with various types of cancer,” said Dr. Herberman.
UPCI is one of the nation’s select National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and the only one in western Pennsylvania. UPCI investigators are world-renowned for their work in clinical and basic cancer research. For more information on cancer research at UPCI, please visit the Web site at www.upci.upmc.edu.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the leading integrated delivery system for health care in Pennsylvania. UPMC is dedicated to providing exemplary patient care, educating the next generation of health care professionals and advancing biomedical research. UPMC includes primary care and specialist physician practices, rehabilitation services, in-home services, retirement living options, a mail-order pharmacy, occupational medicine services, durable medical devices, technology transfer ventures and international health care initiatives. For more information visit www.upmc.com.
ZelleRx Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company developing cancer treatment products based on its proprietary natural killer (NK) cell line, NK-92. The company has a pipeline of universal and targeted products in clinical development against a variety of cancers as adjuvant and primary therapies. For more information visit www.zellerx.com.