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University of Pittsburgh, Partner Back Startup Biotech Firm Koutif Therapeutics

The University of Pittsburgh and a partner have launched a biotech startup, Koutif Therapeutics, which is based on technology developed by Rama K. Mallampalli, MD, and Beibei Chen, PhD.

Dr. Mallampalli is Chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM), Department of Medicine, at Pitt. Dr. Chen is Director of the University’s Department of Medicine Small Molecule Therapeutic Center.

Koutif Therapeutics will develop a small molecule oral inhibitor of an E3 ligase, Fbxo3. The new technology has the potential to help treat inflammatory diseases, such as neuropathic pain, COPD, lung transplant rejection, and irritable bowel disease.

The University of Pittsburgh partnered with BioMotiv, a drug-development accelerator associated with The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development. Dr. Mallampalli was named a Harrington Scholar-Innovator in 2016.

“This company will advance innovative science from our Pulmonary Division’s laboratories that aim to inhibit E3 ligases to specifically down-regulate inflammation, a central contributor to many human diseases,” said Mark T. Gladwin, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine. “This new company highlights a growing commitment at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC to bring major NIH-funded scientific discoveries to the clinic and to enhance the health of our patients.”

Koutif Therapeutics is based on intellectual property licensed from the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Drs. Mallampalli and Chen identified BC-1261, a compound capable of inhibiting the novel target Fbxo3. By inhibiting Fbxo3, these compounds block both the Cav2.2 and the Glu1R pathways through the activation of another related protein, Fbxl2. The compounds’ potential for treating inflammatory conditions stems from their ability to inhibit two pathways that stimulate the known inflammatory cytokine TNF-α.

The research was funded by multiple NIH grants, including the prestigious NIH CADET grant awarded to Dr. Mallampalli in 2014. In addition, as a Harrington Scholar-Innovator, Dr. Mallampalli also received support from Harrington Discovery Institute.