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Chemistry professor starts business to develop safer anticoagulant medications

RELEASED: Nov. 29, 2011

Lewis
Dr. David Lewis

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire chemistry professor who has expertise in synthetic chemistry has established a new business in an effort to develop a safer anticoagulant medication.

Dr. David Lewis is a founder of McDel-Topology LLC, a company established to help develop new and safer derivatives of warfarin, an anticoagulant medication used to decrease the development of blood clots in people with disorders such as heart disease and people who have undergone joint replacement surgery.

Doctors have found that there is great variability of patient response to warfarin; some patients are extremely susceptible to its properties, while others are fairly resistant, Lewis said. As a result, the dosage used is critical and must be monitored closely to avoid side effects, injury or death, he said.

"Warfarin is very difficult to manage because there are significant individual variables that determine how a patient will respond," Lewis said, noting that patients' response can vary depending on things such as their ethnicity and diet. "It's a medication that can be beneficial, but it also can be very dangerous and the window between the two isn't very big."

As a result, for routine procedures such as knee replacements, patients must get their blood tested often to ensure the warfarin isn't creating new health risks, Lewis said.

Marshfield Clinic researchers identified genetic markers in humans that have helped them improve their ability to predict patient responses to warfarin, but they were interested in finding new compounds that might provide alternatives to warfarin, Lewis said.

Lewis became involved in the effort after receiving a 2007 WiSys Technology Foundation Inc. grant and research dollars from UW-Eau Claire that allowed him to work collaboratively with Dr. Michael Caldwell, a surgeon and investigator who heads the wound healing clinic at the Marshfield Clinic.

WiSys supports projects at UW System institutions other than UW-Madison that have the potential to invigorate economic development throughout the state. It helps protect inventions or patents developed by UW scientists, helps to license the technology once the patent is issued and returns the proceeds of such work to the universities to fund further research.

"This has been a very good collaboration," Lewis said of his work with Caldwell. "I'm very appreciative of WiSys for bringing us together. We complement each other and bring out each other's strengths. We can look at the same problem from different perspectives, and those discussions spark new ideas and a new understanding. This is definitely a case of the whole being much greater than the sum of two parts."

Establishing McDel-Topology LLC will allow him to continue and expand his work with warfarin and other anticoagulant compounds, Lewis said.

"While the formation of spin-off companies is common at large research universities, it is much less common at comprehensive universities," Lewis said of his decision to create the business. "A major reason for doing this is that it opens new avenues of funding to help develop the technology, which can be extremely important at the beginning of a medical project."

Lewis currently has a patent pending on a compound that enhances the benefits of warfarin when taken with it. The compound was the result of the research he's been doing since 2007, he said.

"Through the business, I plan to advance the research on this compound," Lewis said, noting that the time between identifying a new compound in a lab and its availability as a drug to the public is typically close to 12 years and can cost nearly $1.2 billion. "Biochemistry is very expensive, and there is a rigorous and expensive testing process for new drugs. Establishing the business will give me to access to federal grant dollars and other revenue sources not available to me as a university researcher."

While some of his research will be done through McDel-Topology, Lewis also will continue his university-supported research projects that involve undergraduate students. To date, six UW-Eau Claire undergraduates, including four current students, have been involved in his project and have presented their work at regional or national scientific meetings.

For more information, contact Dr. David Lewis at 715-836-4744 or lewisd@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB/DW

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