New kinds of drugs being tested by biotechnology company Gliknik Inc. hold promise to correct malfunctioning immune systems, and thus treat a wide range of serious autoimmune diseases and cancer, says co-founder Scott Strome, MD, FACS, who is the University of Maryland 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year.
Autoimmune disease is a vexing clinical problem in which a patient's immune cells target specific organs for attack. The resultant tissue destruction results in sometimes severe morbidity that has a negative impact on quality of life.
Enter Gliknik, located in the University of Maryland BioPark in Baltimore. The six-employee company is developing a novel class of drugs, termed stradomers, which have the potential to treat autoimmunity by restoring tolerance to self antigens.
"It is our hope that these new drugs will improve the lives of individuals afflicted with autoimmunity and also serve as useful reagent tools for studying the mechanisms responsible for the induction of tolerance," Strome told a standing-room-only audience at the BioPark gathered to celebrate his achievements. With its entrepreneur award, given during the annual Founders Week, the University recognizes a researcher who has achieved the best translation of research into a business venture.
In 2009, Gliknik was named "Best Incubator Company of the Year" by the Daily Record. In its short history, Gliknik has raised more than $10 million, licensed two patents and applied for several more. Strome's friendship with biotech entrepreneur David Block, MD, MBA, led to the founding of Gliknik Inc. in 2007. Today Gliknik is recognized as one of Maryland's most promising early-stage life science companies. The University's Technology Transfer Office licensed Strome's discoveries to Gliknik, forming the basis of the company.
Strome said that Gliknik "highlights how research at the University of Maryland is being translated into therapeutics." His entry into the world of business confirmed for Strome that "success in entrepreneurship comes to people who recognize opportunities," he said. Strome is chair of the Department of Otorhinolarygology - Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
He also suggested that a company can find out if its science "is right" by having its drug candidates tested around the world. He detailed positive feedback Gliknik has received from multiple companies testing its products on many different medical conditions.
University of Maryland President Jay A. Perman, MD, said that new technologies help advance the University and create jobs, "but most importantly, such medical technology helps those who treat patients to improve the human condition." Perman, a practicing pediatrician, added, "In our practice, we don't see some of the medical conditions we saw years ago because of work like that of Scott's."