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AdMIRx: Reaching Beyond the Status QuoOksana Schuppan | CU Innovations Mar 2, 2018
Brilliant thinkers have stumbled upon novel inventions simply by remaining open to the unexpected. The discovery and development of AdMIRx was no exception. CU Anschutz inventors Michael Holers, MD, and Joshua Thurman, MD, developed a drug to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases based on a revolutionary concept that stemmed from unexpected lab results and discontent with the status quo.
“The best advice I ever received was if you see something you don’t understand, that is the most important thing to study,” Dr. Holers explains.
Dr. Holers serves as Professor of Medicine and Division Head of Rheumatology at CU Anschutz, where he has been working and researching for 24 years.
In late 2000, he and Dr. Thurman, who now serves as Professor of Medicine and is a Nephrologist at UCHealth, began collaborating. Together with Steve Tomlinson, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, and Liuda Kulik, PhD, CU Research Assistant Professor, this multidisciplinary team uncovered a new way to carefully regulate – but not block – the body’s complement system. When the complement system becomes hyperactive, as is the case in many autoimmune diseases, the immune system, which is designed to protect the body from harmful pathogens, begins destroying tissues as if they, too, were foreign organisms.
The kidneys are especially susceptible to a hyperactive complement system, a problem which often leads to renal failure and the need for dialysis. Because the kidneys control so many aspects of human health, Dr. Thurman recognized the power of AdMIRx from the start. In the past, the state of affairs in complement therapeutics was subpar with little innovation. However, Dr. Holers and Dr. Thurman were determined to push the envelope, choosing to look beyond traditional strategies to develop systemically active, and potentially dangerous, immunosuppressant drugs. In doing so, the team discovered an approach in which a complement modulator could limit the effect of the complement system only in areas where tissues are being damaged. AdMIRx intends to treat conditions including, but not limited to, atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome in children, lupus nephritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and acute injury resulting from stroke and organ transplantation.
Both Dr. Holers and Dr. Thurman have been involved with tech transfer long before it became CU Innovations and both concur that “the culture of innovation is expanding greatly.”
“There has been a crescendo in terms of the support we’ve gotten in the last two years from CU Innovations. CU Innovations brings a multidisciplinary approach where people of many areas of expertise are willing to help,” says Dr. Thurman.
He feels fortunate that as his career has progressed, it has paralleled the growth of CU Innovations.
“Universities that are most successful have an office of innovation that is able to actually innovate,” adds Dr. Holers.
In terms of their advice to future inventors, Dr. Holers speaks to the importance of understanding how your science fits in with humans.
“If you want to innovate, you’ve got to dig into the hard problems we face.”
Dr. Thurman reminds us to keep our eyes open, emphasizing the following words of wisdom.
“It is the unexpected that inspires innovation, not the experiments that go exactly as planned.”
Written by Oksana Schuppan