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Startup company based on IU School of Medicine technology wins Innovation Showcase


INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana University School of Medicine spinoff company has won the 2013 Innovation Showcase, an annual event in which entrepreneurs pitch their plans to local investors.

The company, Emphymab Biotech, is developing a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease based on research by Irina Petrache, M.D., the Dr. Calvin H. English Professor of Medicine and a pulmonary specialist at the IU School of Medicine, and Matthias Clauss, Ph.D., associate professor of cellular and integrative physiology.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, affects more than 10 million people and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Often caused by smoking, COPD includes both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, illnesses that cause breathing difficulty. The problems get progressively worse, and current treatments provide only temporary relief of symptoms.

If successful, the Emphymab treatment would be the first to halt or at least slow the progression of COPD by employing a compound — called a monoclonal antibody — that blocks a lung protein that is activated by smoking and contributes to lung damage.

“We are excited that the Innovation Showcase judges cast their support for Emphymab and this potential therapy,” Dr. Petrache said.

Drs. Petrache and Clauss, who are co-founders of Emphymab, reported in a 2011 paper in The Journal of Clinical Investigation that they had created the monoclonal antibody, which had shown significant benefits in mouse models of smoking and lung disease. Their research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the office of the IUPUI Vice Chancellor for Research.

“This is a great example of the powerful benefits we can expect by leveraging the leading-edge research underway at the IU School of Medicine,” said Joseph Trebley, Ph.D., business manager for Emphymab and head of startup support and promotion for the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. Emphymab Biotech was created through, and is currently supported by, IURTC’s Spin Up Program.

Trebley gave the “pitch” to the Innovation Showcase on July 11 on behalf of Emphymab. As the winner, the company will receive a prize worth $60,000, with $5,000 in cash and the rest in legal, Web, accounting, communications and other services from local firms.