AbbVie and Rice University to advance therapies in oncology

AbbVie, a research-based global biopharmaceutical company, and Rice University have entered into a joint research collaboration to establish the K.C. Nicolaou Research Accelerator. The research at the Accelerator will focus on synthesizing novel cytotoxic agents for use in the fight against cancer. The collaboration will complement AbbVie’s existing expertise in oncology discovery and early development.

The K.C. Nicolaou laboratory has unique expertise in the art of replicating complex natural molecules that have cancer-fighting properties. The process, called total synthesis, allows researchers to apply organic chemistry strategies and technologies to optimize anti-tumor agents. When combined with AbbVie’s medicinal chemistry and antibody engineering capabilities, these anti-tumor agents have the potential to transform cancer treatment paradigms and significantly benefit patients.

“Dr. Nicolaou and his team at Rice University are conducting world-class research in organic chemistry that has the potential to aid in the development of new and effective cancer therapies for patients,” said Tom Hudson, MD, vice president, oncology discovery and early development, AbbVie. “Our goal is to transform the way cancer is treated and we look forward to aligning our development capabilities with the team’s expertise in chemistry to better address patient needs.”

Dr. Nicolaou, the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, will lead the Accelerator’s research team at Rice. He is globally renowned for his research on total organic synthesis. He achieved the first total synthesis of the widely used chemotherapy agent paclitaxel (trade name Taxol®), along with multiple other complex molecules. Dr. Nicolaou has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 2016 for advancing the field of chemical synthesis to the extremes of molecular complexity and expanding the interface among chemistry, biology and medicine.

“The K.C. Nicolaou Research Accelerator is a new model for university-industry collaboration,” said Yousif Shamoo, vice provost for research at Rice University. “It is a true partnership between AbbVie and Rice scientists to conduct the highest-quality cutting-edge research and development in cancer therapeutics. Rice is moving away from more transactional relations with industry and replacing them with an integrative and deeper collaborative structure that we think will produce better outcomes for industry as well as better research and knowledge creation for the University.”

“Collaborations like this one afford exciting opportunities for the commercialization of Rice research,” said Asha Rajagopal, director of technology transfer at Rice University. “University-industry partnerships can marry academic exploration to market need and help streamline the translation of academic results into products with commercial impact. Such partnerships help foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in the university community.”