UNLV has reached a licensing agreement with Abel Therapeutics, a start-up company that seeks to commercialize the discoveries of biochemistry professor Ernesto Abel-Santos. The company is researching, developing, and commercializing a novel compound designed to prevent Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections.
This serious, sometimes fatal infection is often contracted in hospitals, surgery centers, and other health-care facilities. It is considered one of the fastest-growing epidemics in the U.S.
Abel-Santos, who is a company co-founder, is currently conducting additional research on the team’s findings. He and his team recently received a five-year, $3.25 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop a more potent and stable drug to prevent C. diff infections. The grant is an R01, or Research Project Grant, which is considered one of the agency’s most competitive awards.
C. diff is a bacterium that forms spores that can stay in the environment or body for extended periods. Under the right conditions, these spores can germinate in patients’ gastrointestinal tract, producing toxins that cause severe abdominal pain and uncontrollable diarrhea. Abel-Santos’ compound is designed to prevent the spores from germinating.
“The university has pursued a patent for this discovery through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and we are very enthusiastic about this start-up company,” said Zachary Miles, associate vice president for economic development.
He noted that Abel-Santos worked with the College of Business’ entrepreneurship students, who developed a business plan for his company. The team recently won second place at the Southern Nevada Business Plan Competition.