Sep 302009

Due to the need to treat ongoing diseases in humans and animals, CSU is planning to start a statewide initiative that will serve university researchers in the discovery of new medications.

As part of this initiative, the university is hosting the Colorado Center for Drug Discovery, a program that obtained a $2.25 million grant allocated by the Bioscience Discover Evaluation Grant program and funded by the state’s office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The center, otherwise known as C2D2, will act like a virtual organization linking CSU laboratories, expertise and faculty together to identify and conduct drug research projects. The organization has not yet started but co-directors said they have several professors in mind to participate when the initiative gets off the ground.

“(Universities) have many of the same elements inside of a biotech and pharmaceutical company — labs (and) different disciplines — so the same kind of structure exists, but they are not connected to each other in the way scientists are inside of a biotech or pharmaceutical company,” Terry Opgenorth, co-director of the center said.

Opgenorth said C2D2 is going to build a framework to access needed resources and provide grants to fund faculty participation to create virtual drug discovery teams.

In April 2010, the opening of the new Research Innovation Center on CSU’s Foothills Campus will provide C2D2 with physical space for a compound library as well as incubator laboratories to support startup companies.

“As the researchers produce new chemicals that get studied in their labs, we need a physical place to organize and store these molecules so they can be used for many years and many purposes in basic drug discovery research,” Guiles said. “(The library) will be housing hundreds of thousands of molecules.”

C2D2 and the university plan to assemble a compound library that will exceed a quarter of a million molecules, Guiles said.

The opening of the center will provide both undergraduate and graduate students with many opportunities to learn more about the drug research industry including possible internships for undergraduates as well as stipends to support graduate students, post doctorate researchers and labs of participating faculty.

Research conducted at the facility could bring money back to CSU.

“The idea is that (C2D2) produces product in the true sense that someday the drug will be on the market in order to treat diseases,” Opgenorth said. “If a drug is sold then revenues would come back to the university.”

This would require that a drug candidate is licensed to a startup company or an existing biopharma company –/an organization that discovers and develops drugs.

But, Guiles said this is a very long-term proposition due to the complexities of drug discovery and development and the long and expensive process of putting a drug on the market.

“The industry standard, from lab bench discovery to just even into the first human clinical study, is four to seven years and then another four or five years to complete human studies and get launched onto (pharmacy) shelves,” Guiles said. “It’s a tremendous challenge.”

Both Opgenorth and Guiles have almost 20 years of experience, bringing new molecules into clinical studies for the biopharma industry. The two are chief operating officers of the two life science Superclusters at CSU, Guiles with MicroRx in the Infectious Disease Supercluster and Opgenorth with NeoTREX, the Cancer Supercluster.

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, and State Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley co-sponsored the Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant program.

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at

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