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Baxendale Innovation Award goes to two KU researchers

Thursday, October 15, 2015

LAWRENCE — Outstanding success in pharmaceutical research and technology commercialization has resulted in special recognition for two University of Kansas faculty members.

Brian Blagg, the Lester and Betty Mitscher Professor of medicinal chemistry, and Rick Dobrowsky, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, are co-recipients of KU Innovation and Collaboration’s 2015 James Baxendale Innovation Award. It honors those whose research has resulted in significant advances and commercial opportunities for the university.

Previous Baxendale Award recipients are Cory Berkland, professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Lisa Stehno-Bittel, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science in the KU School of Health Professions.

Blagg and Dobrowsky were cited for research that led to a major licensing agreement last year with Reata Pharmaceuticals of Irving, Texas, for a portfolio of drug technologies. The two are exploring the potential use of “novologues” for treating a complication of diabetes – diabetic peripheral neuropathy – that affects 60 to 70 percent of patients with diabetes. Novologues also show promise in treating cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

Reata is working with Blagg and Dobrowsky on a strategy for collaboration with KU. The company expects to fund new research at KU while it develops the existing technologies it has now licensed.

The 2015 James Baxendale Innovation Award was presented Oct. 7 at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center during the BioKansas BioBreak networking reception that followed the half-day “A Celebration of Innovation: A Startup Showcase,” an event that provided an opportunity to see KU startup companies commercializing the latest life science, medical device and cutting-edge technologies generated as a result of KU research. Participants included those interested in licensing, commercializing, investing or otherwise becoming involved with getting new discoveries to the marketplace.

Jeff Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor, made opening remarks and presented the Baxendale Award to Blagg and Dobrowsky. A KU panel on “The Commercialization Ecosystem at KU” was followed by an industry panel on “Technology Acquisition.” Later, there were presentations by six faculty startups and five student startups. The full agenda is available online.

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