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Success in an IU Life Sciences Classroom May Translate into a New Drug Market Success

On Tuesday evenings about 60 students gather in classrooms on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses for the Business of Life Sciences, a Kelley School of Business course. Tackling such topics as cost containment, government regulation and demographic trends, the students listen and interact via video conference with leading members of Indiana’s life sciences business community.

But it’s the student projects that could help make a discovery by Hiroki Yokota, Ph.D., a commercial product.

In laboratory experiments, Dr. Yokota, an assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology at the IU School of Medicine and assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at IUPUI, discovered a compound called salubrinal that can stimulate bone growth. That holds out promise as a treatment for osteoporosis, a disease that brings progressive bone loss and threat of factures to patients, especially older women.

However, compounds that show promise in laboratory experiments are generally far from pharmaceutical products used to treat to disease. So with support from the Indiana Clinical Translational Sciences Institute, the IU Research and Technology Corp. is working to commercialize salubrinal.

Students in this semester’s class are following up on the work they did in the fall semester when they analyzed the commercial potential for salubrinal and concluded that the best target for initial FDA approval was for use as a post-surgical hip replacement therapy.

“That was probably the most important result from the first semester,” said Matt J. Rubin, business development manager at IURTC.

This semester student teams are following up on commercialization plans formulated during the previous semester, analyzing industry trends and identifying potential issues, such as possible roadblocks in the regulatory process. The class includes students from the schools of business, arts and sciences, informatics and law, and the teams are similarly interdisciplinary – a useful experience for students as they move into the business world, said George M. Telthorst, MBA, lecturer and director of the Center for the Business of Life Sciences at the Kelley School.

During the semesters students can discuss the drug’s development process with Dr. Yokota, although they’re limited to the number of calls and emails they can send.

For Dr. Yokota, who says as a scientist he has little knowledge of marketing, “this class is helping me tremendously.”