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UofL, Owensboro Medical team up to make cancer drugs from plants

February 16th, 2007

The University of Louisville and Owensboro Medical Health System are teaming up to develop new cancer-fighting drugs from plants.

One of the drugs, which contains a chemical derived from tobacco, could become the second-generation version of a cancer vaccine released last year.

Researchers hope to create the new vaccine by inserting certain genes into a virus added to growing tobacco plants, said Keith Davis, a UofL plant biotechnology scientist. The key ingredient for the vaccine is taken from the tobacco leaves after the leaves are harvested and purified.

The new research partnership “will build on the excellent drug-development research program at our Brown Cancer Center and the unique resources available in Owensboro for plant-based pharmaceuticals,” said UofL President James Ramsey.

Four new labs at Owensboro Medical Health System’s Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center have been created to house the program, which Davis will direct. Eventually, the program could employ as many as 10 researchers, officials said.

Davis and fellow scientist Kenneth Palmer have been collaborating with A. Bennett “Ben” Jenson and Shin-je Ghim, the U of L researchers who helped develop the cervical cancer vaccine released last year. They conducted initial research on the second-generation vaccine at Kentucky Bioprocessing in Owensboro, a facility owned by Owensboro Medical Health System.

“This new venture will combine intellectual and manufacturing expertise developed right here in Kentucky to help patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses,” said Jeff Barber, president of Owensboro Medical Health Center.

Related Link
Researchers fight cervical cancer with tobacco plant
James Graham Brown Cancer Center

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