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Big payoff expected for USF with licensing of new drug

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 09:16 PM
TAMPA -

The University of South Florida can expect "a sizeable payment" from the licensing of a new anti-depressant drug it has been developing for 10 years, the school told state higher education leaders today.

The drug maker AstraZeneca reached an agreement on the drug with the company Targacept of Winston-Salem, N.C., which had acquired rights from USF. Reuters news reported today the deal is worth as much as $1.24 billion.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, vice president for health sciences at USF, likened the impact of the deal to the spinoffs of a cancer drug and sports drink that helped establish the reputations of Florida's best-known research universities.

"This could be like Taxol was to FSU or Gatorade to the University of Florida," Klasko said, before tempering his enthusiasm a bit. "It's presumptuous to say that today. It depends how the clinical trials go. The possibilities are unlimited."

The announcement was made at a meeting in Tampa of the Florida Board of Trustees.

"This is a very proud moment for our institution," said Valerie McDevitt, assistant vice president for research at USF. She predicted a "sizeable payment" for the school.

Research on the drug began at USF more than a decade ago.

"These things take a while," said Paul R. Sanberg, director of USF's Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair.

According to the agreement, the drug will go into stage-three clinical trials next year.

The researchers who developed the drug include two USF professors, a post-doctorate student and an undergraduate.

"As soon as I saw these folks," Klasko said, "I knew they wanted to find answers."

In an account of the research posted on its Web site in October, USF calls the drug TC-5214 and describes it as an add-on treatment tested in a large clinical trial of adult patients who were resistant to other forms of treatment for depression.

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