NIH Laboratory Wins National Technology Transfer Award

A team headed by Dr. Jeffrey Rubin of the National Cancer Institute has received the 2006 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC). The FLC is a nationwide network of over 700 federal laboratories and centers, organized in 1974 and chartered by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 to promote and strengthen technology transfer nationwide. The team, which also includes Dr. Paul Finch, a scientific consultant, and Dr. Stuart Aaronson of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, received this honor based on the transfer of technology that led to the commercial product Kepivance® (palifermin). Kepivance® is a recombinant form of human keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), and reduces the incidence and duration of severe oral mucositis in patients with hematological cancers who are undergoing bone marrow or blood cell transplantation. Oral mucositis, or ulceration of the lining of the mouth, is rated as the most debilitating side effect for approximately 11,000 adult Americans per year who undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment for hematologic cancers. Kepivance® is thought to reduce the severity of oral mucositis by stimulating the replacement of cells that are killed by these cancer treatments. Prior to Kepivance® there was no effective treatment for oral mucositis. In 1989, NIH scientists (Rubin et al.) discovered KGF, a human growth factor with specificity for epithelial cells, and NIH filed for a patent based on their discovery. In 1992, Amgen was granted an exclusive license to develop potential therapeutic applications for this growth factor. NIH and Amgen scientists worked together to overcome challenges in clinical development, and in 2004 the FDA approved palifermin, sold as Kepivance®. The use of Kepivance® to reduce oral mucositis directly benefits the quality of life of thousands of cancer patients each year, enabling them to undergo full courses of treatment with shorter hospital stays and less reliance on pain medication. The development of Kepivance® may also encourage others to develop new drugs to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Dr. Rubin and his colleagues will be recognized at an award ceremony on May 3, 2006 at the FLC's National Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Congratulations to Dr. Rubin, his collaborators, and NCI for this achievement. Reference: Rubin JS et al. (1989) Purification and characterization of a newly identified growth factor specific for epithelial cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 86(3), 802-806.