UK Pharmacy’s Dwoskin finishes 2nd in regional competition for biomedical startups
A prominent innovator at the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy placed second in SmartHealth Catalyzer’s Best of the BioMidwest competition to identify promising, new therapeutics discovered at universities and research hospitals.
Linda Dwoskin, Ph.D., holds the University Professorship in Graduate Medical Education and serves as senior associate vice president for research for special projects in the Office of the Vice President for Research. She was also recently named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which is the highest professional distinction given to academic inventors.
Her research focuses on the development of novel therapeutic candidates to treat psychostimulant abuse, specifically for methamphetamine use disorders. She serves as inventor on 24 U.S. patents.
Dwoskin was invited to Chicago May 9-10 to pitch her startup MUDRx after advancing through two earlier tiers of the review process to the Top 10 of the Best of the BioMidwest competition.
MUDRx Inc., which stands for Methamphetamine Use Disorder Therapeutics, is a new company from research performed at the University of Kentucky and supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Use Priority Research Area (SUPRA) and the Kentucky Network for Innovation and Commercialization (KYNETIC). It was founded by Dwoskin and Kip Guy, Ph.D., dean of the UK College of Pharmacy.
The goal of MUDRx is to address the critical unmet need for 2.5 million Americans who use methamphetamine by commercializing a novel small molecule as an effective therapeutic for this disease. Currently, there is no approved medicine for methamphetamine use disorder in the U.S. or the world.
“I was very excited to be selected to give a pitch at the SmartHealth Catalyzer’s Best of the BioMidwest competition in Chicago and to have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with 10 venture capital groups who may be interested in investing in our health care product,” said Dwoskin. “Through the pitch preparation process, I learned how difficult it is in a four-minute presentation to convey passion for the problem, explain the innovative solution, describe how your product is differentiated from competitors, define the market opportunity and suggest how this will address health care inequities.
“I am grateful for the help I received in honing my presentation from KYNETIC, the UK Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), SmartHealth and my daughter Mandy who attended the event with me. I was thrilled to earn second place in the Best of the BioMidwest competition.”
Each proposal was judged by a panel of 10 experts in biomedical sciences and therapeutics who work for elite venture capitalists like Research Bridge Partners and Khosla Ventures.
Judges looked for proposals to meet three criteria: how novel is the approach and/or target, how commercially viable is the therapeutic and how well the therapeutic improves equity in health care access and outcomes.
As part of the final round of the competition, Dwoskin gave a four-minute pitch to a public audience. Attendees were given $1,000 in play money to “invest” in their favorite pitches and Dwoskin finished with the second-highest total investment.
OTC provides innovators with a variety of support services from technology transfer to licensing and new venture development.
“SmartHealth Catalyzer is helping to drive innovation and advance the field of medicine, by identifying promising new discoveries and providing resources and support to help bring them to market,” said Taunya Phillips, director of OTC. “The Best of the BioMidwest competition is an incredible platform for our researchers to showcase their therapeutic innovations, connecting them with industry leaders, investors and other key stakeholders, who can help them take their ideas to the next level. The OTC staff works diligently to identify opportunities and help prepare our faculty innovators for these and other opportunities.”
Two other research groups from UK submitted short proposals for the competition back in December 2022. Luke H. Bradley, Ph.D., Chellgren Endowed Professor and acting chair of the Department of Neuroscience in the UK College of Medicine, pitched his startup Avast Therapeutics, which advances new treatments for neural disease.
Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova, Ph.D., and Oleg Tsodikov, Ph.D., both professors in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, submitted a proposal on anti-microbial compounds on which they are working.
Bradley and Dwoskin were among the 30 participants selected to advance to the second round of the competition. Bradley did not make the Top 10 but said he received strong feedback and is hopeful for future collaboration with SmartHealth.