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UT-Houston Start-up Will Develop Nanostructured CT Contrast Agents

HOUSTON—(Sept. 11, 2007)—Marval Biosciences, Inc., a University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston portfolio start-up company, has obtained a worldwide license to intellectual property covering nanostructured computed tomography (CT) contrast agents which were co-developed by Ananth Annapragada, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.

“Nanotechnology has been applied to cardiovascular imaging by Dr. Annapragada in a very elegant manner to provide a safer, more detailed visualization of the heart and vessels,” said C. Thomas Caskey, M.D., director and chief executive officer of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases, a part of the UT Health Science Center at Houston.

In consideration for the license, the UT Health Science Center at Houston will hold equity in Marval, said Luetta Allen, Ph.D., senior technology licensing associate at the university’s Office of Technology Management, who led the licensing and inter-institutional agreement negotiations.

“We are pleased to have a business relationship with Marval in order to move the university’s technology to the marketplace to the benefit of all, including UT and the patients,” said Allen.

CT scans provide clinicians with three-dimensional views of organs, blood vessels and tissues. Contrast agents are used to enhance the quality of the images and can be administered in different ways.

According to Annapragada, nanostructured CT contrast agents could revolutionize the diagnosis of the cause of acute chest pain, which every year drives 8 to 10 million Americans to emergency rooms.

When patients complain of acute chest pain, many doctors must order a catheter angiogram and at least two CTs to rule out myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, and aortic dissection – also known as the “triple rule out,” he said.

Today’s CT contrast agents are administered by injection and are rapidly cleared from the bloodstream, which only gives radiologists a minute or two to get chest images, he said. Contrast agents have also been linked to kidney problems.

Annapragada’s invention uses liposomal nanocarriers to deliver CT contrast agents, which can both extend the life of contrast agents used to diagnose acute chest pain and reduce toxicity to patients.  Placing contrast agents in tiny fat bubbles called liposomes would give clinicians hours to take their images - resulting in better quality – and allow doctors to conduct a “triple rule out” with a single CT, he said.

“When fully developed it has potential to non-invasively identify early aneurysms, vulnerable plaques which cause heart attacks, heart pump function, and battlefield vascular injuries,” Caskey said. “Cardiologists and surgeons will benefit by more precise diagnosis and corrective therapy. It is very satisfying to see the promise of nanotechnology so rapidly deliver at UT-Houston.”

Annapragada’s nanostructured CT contrast agents performed exceptionally in preclinical studies.  The agents must complete clinical trials, and it is estimated to be several years away from patient use. The cost of a “triple rule out” could drop from around $25,000 to less than $2,000 with nanostructured CT contrast agents, Annapragada said.

“The new technology, developed by Dr. Annapragada and colleagues, will enable a much broader population of patients to use CT for diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases without fear of contrast-induced nephropathy, which can cause acute kidney failure, particularly in elderly and diabetic patients,” said Marval CEO Russ Lebovitz, M.D., Ph.D.  Nephropathy refers to damage or disease of the kidney.

Information on Marval and the nanostructured CT contrast agents is available by calling 281-802-4776.

Media contact: Rob Cahill
Media hotline: 713-500-3030

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