The University of Minnesota announced Thursday that it has granted an exclusive license to a San Francisco pharmaceutical company that will commercialize a cyanide-poisoning antidote researchers have developed.
Vytacera Pharma Inc. will develop and marketSulfanegen, a compound that can be administered by first responders to victims of smoke inhalation or a large-scale terrorist attack. Current treatments such as intravenous injections take as long as 20 minutes to take effect and would be especially ineffective if many people were exposed to cyanide poisoning simultaneously.
“There is no effective cyanide antidote that can be administered rapidly,” said Steve Patterson, coinventor and associate director of the university’s Center for Drug Design, where Sulfanegen was invented, in a news release. “In the case of a mass casualty situation, the emergency responders wouldn’t be able to treat most of the victims. Sulfanegen can be administered rapidly by intramuscular injection, so emergency responders could treat people faster. And it takes far less skill to use an auto-injector than it does for an intravenous injection.”
Sulfanegen can also be taken prior to cyanide exposure because it works as prophylactic and would be helpful to people like firefighters and emergency personnel.
The hope is to get Sulfanegen rapidly approved under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s so-called animal rule, one of whose provisions is that the animal study “endpoint is clearly related to the desired benefit in humans, generally the enhancement of survival or prevention of major morbidity.” Sulfanegen has already demonstrated efficacy in various animal models.
A Vytacera executive signaled that the company wants to move quickly to commercialize the university’s invention.
“We intend to move forward as rapidly as financing and regulations permit,” added Jon S. Saxe, chair of Vytacera in a statement. “Our goal is to make this important advance available to those in need of it and to enable governments to be better prepared, which, ultimately, may help deter terrorism.”