KU News Release

Oct. 17, 2011
Contact: Joe Monaco, Office of Public Affairs, 785-864-7100

Mencuro Therapeutics moves into BTBC Expansion Facility

Tom Prisinzano

More Information

LAWRENCE — The Bioscience & Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas will house another biotech company with ties to the university.

Mencuro Therapeutics Inc., a drug development company focused on pain treatment, has leased space at the BTBC Expansion Facility, located at 4950 Research Parkway. The company will create one new position — a biologist — and plans to add additional scientists within the next year.

Mencuro utilizes technologies developed by Tom Prisinzano, a medicinal chemist at KU, and Laura Bohn, a neuroscientist at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida. Prisinzano and Bohn teamed up with colleagues Robert Karr and Randy Weiss to launch the company earlier this year.

“We’re excited to locate in Lawrence as part of the BTBC at KU incubator system,” said Prisinzano, an associate professor in the medicinal chemistry department. “We considered locations in Iowa City and Kansas City, but the BTBC was clearly the best option. The BTBC gives us great lab space and a range of business and financing services. Most importantly, this location gives Mencuro access to KU equipment, technology and researchers, including me and my Malott Hall lab. It’s ideal for an early stage biotech company like Mencuro.”

Mencuro will collaborate with various KU units, including the department of medicinal chemistry, as well as the department of pharmaceutical chemistry in the KU School of Pharmacy.

Mencuro becomes the 11th company to locate in the BTBC at KU incubator system, which comprises three buildings — the BTBC Main Facility and the BTBC Expansion Facility in Lawrence, and the BTBC at KUMC Facility in Kansas City. Mencuro is the second tenant in the Expansion Facility, joining KU spinout CritiTech.

“It’s been just 14 months since we launched the BTBC, and we already have 11 tenants,” said Matthew McClorey, executive director of the BTBC. “The BTBC is clearly attracting some great bioscience and technology companies, and offering them a unique location. By locating here, companies have direct access to KU resources, including some of the world’s leading scientists. This location fosters collaboration between research and industry, which will drive commercialization of university-based research and bring life-improving discoveries to market more quickly.”

The most effective painkillers on the market today are opioids, which account for most of the $50 billion global annual painkiller market. But many of the most effective ones — including morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone — come with unwanted side effects such as tolerance, dependence, constipation and risk of overdose. Prisinzano and Bohn have developed compounds that produce pain relief without engaging signaling pathways that lead to these side effects.

“We’re trying to take the strongest, most potent painkillers and eliminate the side effects so they’re more like Advil or Tylenol,” Prisinzano said. “This could lead to incredible quality-of-life improvements for people around the world, including those who live with chronic pain.”

Mencuro’s technologies could also have major cost implications. Pain is the most common symptom for which patients seek medical attention. According to the American Pain Society, prevalence of chronic pain in the United States is 35 percent, or 105 million people. This costs more than $100 billion per year in direct health-care expenditure and lost work time.

The Mencuro announcement is the latest good news for the BTBC. On Sept. 27, leaders from KU and various economic development groups hosted a dedication ceremony for the new BTBC at KUMC Facility in Kansas City. Just a few weeks before that, biotech company Gyrasol announced it would become the sixth tenant in the BTBC at KU Main Facility.

“The BTBC at KU is doing exactly what it was designed to do,” said Julie Goonewardene, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at KU. “We’ve created an entrepreneurial environment where software businesses, drug development companies, advanced manufacturing businesses and information technology companies can access everything they need in one place. As a result, the BTBC continues to be an incredible economic development engine for Kansas.”

BTBC Background
The BTBC at KU provides state-of-the-art wet lab and office space, access to KU resources and research expertise, and business support services such as capital-raising and consulting services from incubator staff. The BTBC system consists of three facilities: the Main Facility, located on the KU campus at 2029 Becker Drive; the Expansion Facility, located at 4950 Research Parkway; and a third facility on the KUMC campus. The three buildings combine for nearly 60,000 square feet in office and lab space. Below is a summary of the three buildings’ occupancy rates and tenants.

BTBC Main Facility
53 employees – 66 percent full
• 360 Energy Engineers – engineering and energy management
• BrightEHR – electronic health records
• Garmin – navigation and communication devices
• Gyrasol – drug development
• Propylon –software systems for state legislatures
• Sunlite Science and Technology – specialty LED products

BTBC Expansion Facility
8 employees – 27 percent full
• CritiTech – drug delivery
• Mencuro – drug development

KUMC Facility
11 employees – 36 percent full
• Aptakon – next-generation antibody substitutes
• Orbis Biosciences – controlled-release delivery technology
• OsteoGeneX – orally administered therapeutics

The BTBC is a partnership of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority, Lawrence Regional Technology Center, University of Kansas, City of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas Bioscience Authority and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.


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