15 Apr Biotech Pioneer Discusses Breakthrough in Osteoporosis Treatment
Deltanoid founder and CEO Hector DeLuca has discovered and characterized a promising chemically modified Vitamin D compound, 2MD, which reverses the effects of osteoporosis. In animal studies, 2MD increases bone growth while leaving blood calcium levels unchanged – even at doses 3,000 times the level of other compounds.
According to DeLuca, “Vitamin D’s main job is to regulate calcium levels in the blood. Too little calcium can cause convulsions, stunted bone growth, and repair. Too much calcium can seriously and irreversibly damage the kidneys, heart and other organs. Vitamin D is actually biologically inactive itself. It must be converted to the active form by the liver and kidneys in order to function.”
DeLuca, who Chairs the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, recently addressed the Wisconsin Biotechnology Association’s monthly meeting. He discussed his ongoing research into Vitamin D compounds, the current successes and future goals of Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals, and his insights on the history of commercialization at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. (WARF)
DeLuca began his career at the University of Wisconsin in 1959 after receiving his PhD from the UW. His work in Vitamin A and especially Vitamin D has led to over 150 US and 1,200 foreign patents and the founding of several Wisconsin-based biotech companies. DeLuca was the last graduate student of Dr. Harry Steenbock, the early University of Wisconsin department head and a co-founder of WARF.
The first successful commercialization by WARF of technology discovered at the University of Wisconsin was with Quaker Oats in 1927, for supplementing breakfast cereals with Vitamin D. Since that first agreement, WARF has generated billions of dollars from hundreds of UW inventions and has often been cited as a model university technology transfer program.
DeLuca sees a change in the field of university technology transfer. “Companies are much less willing to acquire rights for technologies in very early stages of development. They now want to see proof of principle and more developed products before they agree to deals,” he said.
As a result, Deltanoid’s strategy will focus on developing university technology to the stage where large pharmaceutical companies are then willing to sign on. Deltanoid will not market drugs or take them into clinical trials but will leave those activities to partners with that expertise. In addition to 2MD, Deltanoid is also working on several other compounds such as DP006 for psoriasis and bone loss caused by kidney failure and several other therapeutic areas such as fracture healing and cancer.
Pharmaceutical companies developing drugs to treat bone degradation in dialysis patients have licensed compounds synthesized by the DeLuca Group for use. These compounds were successful in that area, but had the undesirable side effect of raising blood calcium levels. The search was then on for compounds that promote bone growth while leaving blood calcium levels unaffected. DeLuca has met this challenge with his research and the creation of Deltanoid Pharmaceutical.
John Keach is a Madison, Wisconsin-based freelance writer and regular contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. He has worked as a scientist, researcher, product and business manager for several biotechnology firms including PanVera Corporation, and Covance, as well as Early Stage Research where he reviewed and analyzed business plans for angel investment networks. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org