The University of Central Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center signed an agreement with GLG Pharma, LLC to take the compound to the next level of development and perhaps someday to use it against a variety of cancers, including breast cancer.

UCF Associate Professor James Turkson and a team at Moffitt Cancer Center co-developed GLG-302, a compound that has been shown to prevent the uncontrolled activity of the STAT3 protein. This protein, when hyperactive, has been implicated in human cancer, particularly breast cancer.

Under the licensing agreement, GLG Pharma, an early-stage Florida biotechnology company founded to develop personalized therapies for cancer patients, obtained the exclusive worldwide rights to the compound.

UCF leaders said the agreement underscores the value of research.

“Our scientists work diligently toward cures for many of the world’s deadliest diseases,” said Pappachan Kolattukudy, director of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “This agreement will help bring some of that work to bear on one of the world’s most prolific killers.”

Turkson’s research on the STAT3 protein began at Moffitt and grew at UCF with major grants from the National Institutes of Health and Florida Hospital. His findings have been published in the academic journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and ACS Chemical Biology.

“Our compound goes after STAT3, stripping away its power,” Turkson said. “In addition to its involvement in cancer cells, hyperactivated STAT3 is also involved in immune cells.  The body’s immune system is tricked by the abnormally active STAT3 into thinking the tumor cells are harmless.  In the presence of our compound, the immune system should recognize that something is wrong, re-activate, recognize that remaining cancer cells are harmful and destroy them.”

Moffitt officials said the compound is significant.

“Persistently activated STAT3 is a major contributor to human cancer; validating its usefulness as a cancer therapeutic target in collaboration with GLG will be a major milestone,” said  Said Sebti , chair of the Drug Discovery Department at Moffitt and one of the co-developers of GLG-302 compound.

Ray Carpenter, senior licensing manager at the Office of Technology Management and Commercialization at Moffitt Cancer Center, said the three-way agreement is a great example of Florida institutions facilitating bench-to-bedside research in collaboration with Florida companies.

And GLG officials say they are hopeful.

“STAT3 inhibitors appear to be the next generation of targeted therapies. We are excited to be developing these series of compounds,” said Mike Lovell, executive vice president of GLG Pharma, LLC.

The company has plans to begin further studies that it hopes will lead to human clinical trials within a year.

Turkson came to UCF in 2005 after completing post-doctoral fellow training in Molecular Oncology and his first faculty position as assistant professor at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.