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May 2, 2003

Seeking immunity

Good for Business
by Debra Gibson
In its ongoing battle against cancer, NewLink Genetics is headed for trial.

A clinical trial, that is, one that will be conducted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this summer on the company's new drug, known as the Hyperacute Vaccine. It stimulates the body's immune system to fight an already-diagnosed cancer. The vaccine currently targets lung and breast cancers, with pancreatic and prostate cancers to be tested next year.

NewLink Genetics, located in the ISU Research Park, also has adapted plant genetics analysis software (created by ISU professor Volker Brendel) to human medicine research, and now markets that new technology to pharmaceutical companies. According to Nick Vahanian, the company's chief medical officer, this process analyzes proteins and studies their functions, providing information that eventually will be used to develop novel pharmaceutical treatments and diagnostic markers for cancer.

The company's founder, Charles Link, currently also works as a collaborative professor in ISU's department of zoology and genetics. Within five years, NewLink Genetics, the first human pharmaceutical company in Iowa, hopes to expand to 300 employees with a $10 million payroll.

"This new convergence of biotechnology and computer science at Iowa State creates very advantageous positions for companies dealing in drug development and discoveries," Vahanian said. "These opportunities will be great for the state economically, while helping many cancer patients as well."

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Published by: University Relations,
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