June 16, 2003

UC San Diego Announces First Sponsorship of Health Sciences Technology
Through New Translational Medicine Program

Forward Ventures to Fund AnalgesiX; New Company to Focus on Pain Therapy

The University of California, San Diego Translational Medicine program (UCSD TransMed), a novel framework for facilitating private investment in early stage life sciences technology, has announced the successful launch of its first project through an arrangement with Forward Ventures, a San Diego venture capital fund. The goal of the TransMed program is to accelerate the commercialization of new discoveries in the life sciences from the University for the benefit of patients.

The project's aim is the development of a potent new drug for pain management and inflammation and includes the foundation of a new startup company, AnalgesiX, Inc.

The scientific focus of the new company is based on the work of Edward A. Dennis, Ph.D., professor and former chair of chemistry and biochemistry, UCSD School of Medicine and division of physical sciences, and Tony Yaksh, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology, UCSD School of Medicine. Dennis and Yaksh will pursue the identification of new pain inhibitors for the management of diseases such as arthritis, cancer and atherosclerosis.

Forward Ventures, the first investor to successfully complete an arrangement through the TransMed program, will provide funding to AnalgesiX for up to three years. AnalgesiX has licensed patents relating to the compounds to be developed and will have the exclusive right to negotiate for intellectual property rights that result from the research. TransMed project funding can vary widely depending upon type and stage of research being funded.

In addition, the investigators received a UC Discovery Grant from the University of California's Industry-University Cooperative Research Program, which was established in 1996 to sponsor university-industry research partnerships. 

In total with the combined funding support, the AnalgesiX project could receive up to $1.5 million over three years.

UCSD TransMed was created through the collaborative efforts of the UCSD School of Medicine, UCSD CONNECT, the UCSD Technology Transfer & Intellectual Property Services Office, and local life science executives and capital providers. The program seeks to generate private funding opportunities for UCSD faculty research teams conducting early-stage laboratory-based research that shows promise of improving clinical care. TransMed helps partner investors with researchers whose projects are best suited for private industry sponsorship. All agreements are consistent with the University's existing guidelines.

The TransMed program effectively addresses the "translational funding gap" that exists between the stage of "post-discovery" research following the first fundamental laboratory findings and before the development and testing of new drugs or technologies that can be commercialized for use in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, said Edward W. Holmes, UCSD vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine

"By working closely with the private sector through TransMed, we hope to support and advance projects that are at the intersection of basic and clinical research, and increase the translation of basic discovery into technologies and treatments that will improve patient care," said Holmes. "Our goal is to partner with industry to foster excellent research and develop ideas into technologies and treatments that will ultimately lead to improved human health."

"Forward is participating in TransMed to nurture research and development in San Diego. We feel that early stage investing is a great long-term strategy with a big potential payoff," said Joel Martin, partner with Forward Ventures. "AnalgesiX has a novel approach to pain and inflammation and this is a huge market."

"In addition to providing funding, Forward Ventures has been instrumental in providing valuable feedback on the structure and underlying process of the TransMed program," said Fred Cutler, Ph.D., director of UCSD CONNECT. "What's unique about TransMed is that it is a true partnership between the university and private capital providers. TransMed has created a unique mechanism whereby capital providers can make very early state investments without the additional risk and effort normally required to set up and staff a start-up business."

The AnalgesiX project was one of 26 submissions to the TransMed program by UCSD researchers. Proposals came from teams that brought together a basic scientist with a more clinically oriented researcher. After initial screening by a UCSD committee, six projects were offered to investors and posted on a TransMed Web site for review. Interested investors worked with the university and the research team on the details of support. With the Forward Ventures' funding, the pain relief project is the first to achieve final approval.

AnalgesiX is a start-up company that partners biochemist Dennis, and Yaksh, a leading pain researcher. They plan to target a specific biochemical pathway that initiates the release of various compounds leading to pain and inflammation, and to develop and screen compounds to shut down this initial target. Such a drug could potentially be a potent new form of analgesic, inhibiting pain at its earliest stages as opposed to current drugs that target various enzymes released later in the pain pathway.

UCSD plans to solicit, screen and post for public review a second round of TransMed research proposals in the next few months.

UCSD Health Sciences

UCSD Health Sciences, encompassing the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the UCSD Healthcare system of patient services, is committed to the improvement of patient care through its integrated clinical, research and educational missions. Ranked first in the nation in federal research funding per faculty member, UCSD's medical school is a recognized leader in basic and translational research. The Institute for Science Information has ranked UCSD 4th in the nation in the impact of its research, and 2nd in the nation in clinical research impact. More than 65 new biotechnology companies have been founded by UCSD faculty or alumni, or have been based on UCSD generated discoveries.

Forward Ventures

Forward Ventures, Southern California's largest venture fund focused exclusively on the life sciences, identifies candidates for early stage investments that both accelerate the development of innovative and effective treatments for serious diseases and produce significant returns for investors. The fund's partners apply their combination of scientific and medical research, business and financial expertise and wide range of relationships to benefit its portfolio companies, participating actively in building each successful enterprise with a goal of achieving returns for investors in three to five years. For more information go to www.forwardventures.com


UCSD CONNECT is a university-based organization fostering entrepreneurship in the San Diego region by catalyzing, accelerating, and supporting the growth of the most promising technology and life sciences businesses. Founded in 1985, UCSD CONNECT is widely regarded as the nation's most successful regional program linking high-technology and life science entrepreneurs with the resources they need for success: technology, money, markets, management, partners, and support services. Part of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), CONNECT delivers targeted, high-level expertise to San Diego's technology business community by teaming up with the region's most prominent industry-specific organizations and individuals, and by partnering with world-class UCSD resources.

UCSD Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Services

UCSD Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Services (TechTIPS) manages the intellectual property developed at UCSD and to provide educational and information services on intellectual property matters to the UCSD community, with the goal of facilitating the transfer of innovations from campus to the private sector for the benefit of society. TechTIPS is responsible for the management of all new inventions, tangible research materials, and selected copyrightable materials (collectively, "intellectual property") developed at UCSD and owned by the Regents of the University of California.

UC Discovery Grants

UC Discovery Grants, awarded by the Industry-University Cooperative Research Program (IUCRP), form a 3-way partnership between UC, Industry, and the State of California, that helps advance research and education while simultaneously strengthening the competitiveness of California businesses.  Up to $60 million per year in State, Industry and University funds are available to support new research projects in five emerging fields: biotechnology; communications and networking; digital media; electronics manufacturing and new materials; and information technology for life sciences.  In addition, the program welcomes interdisciplinary research proposals.  For more information, please visit www.ucdiscoverygrant.org

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Leslie Franz
UCSD Health Sciences Communications

Jon Schmid
Gable-Cook-Schmid Public Relations