Johns Hopkins cancer research project is first to receive support from Bluefield Innovations

Project led by oncologist Marikki Laiho aims to develop first-in-class small molecule drug

A research project indicating that interfering with a particular cellular pathway kills cancer cells while causing little harm to normal cells is the first accepted for funding by Bluefield Innovations, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and Deerfield Management to catalyze early stage therapeutic development.

Marikki Laiho

Image caption: Marikki Laiho

The project originated in the lab of Marikki Laiho, professor of radiation oncology and director of the Division of Molecular Radiation Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. It illustrates how cancer cells disproportionately rely on the RNA polymerase I cellular pathway when compared to normal cells.

"We are excited to accept Dr. Laiho's project into Bluefield Innovations and show our commitment to the goal of advancing promising research projects," says James Flynn, managing partner at Deerfield Management.

Bluefield, which launched in November, will provide scientific, financial, and operational support to Laiho's research, enabling her team to identify the clinical lead molecule and move toward human clinical trials. Ultimately, this support could lead to the development of a first-in-class small molecule drug.

"I truly appreciate the opportunity to align with a collaborator that shares the same mindset and goals surrounding early stage research targets," Laiho says. "Bluefield understands that new targets and first-in-class molecules require a higher level of due diligence and with that, they provide the expertise to support the extensive ground work required for the [Investigational New Drug] process."

A joint steering committee consisting of representatives from Johns Hopkins and Deerfield selected Laiho's research to receive support from Bluefield. The initial five-year term of Bluefield Innovations will provide support and funding to approximately a dozen Johns Hopkins faculty and researchers. A call for applications will take place in the first quarter of 2018.

"Bluefield Innovations provides a valuable avenue for Johns Hopkins researchers to unleash the potential of their promising work," says William Nelson, professor of oncology and director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. "Dr. Laiho's research may prove to be a transformational cancer treatment. We're excited that Bluefield has provided her an opportunity to accelerate its development and commercialization."