Attacking one disease is challenging enough, but what if you can attack a disease that produces multiple disorders?
Answering that question motivates Prolong Pharmaceuticals LLC, a South Plainfield biotech company developing a drug to treat sickle cell disease, a blood disorder with complications that include stroke, heart attack and leg ulcers that can lead to amputations.
The company's lead product, Sanguinate, has completed early-stage safety trials. Prolong is now preparing to test injectable drug Sanguinate on sickle cell disease patients.
“Once it does get to market, it will be a major medical breakthrough, primarily because of the scope of disorders that it will be able to treat,” Prolong founder and CEO Abraham Abuchowski said.
Prolong doesn't make predictions on how long it will take to move Sanguinate through the clinical pipeline, an inherently uncertain process. But Abuchowski and President Glenn Kazo are certain that Prolong possesses an advantage in drug delivery technology.
Abuchowski, dating back to his days as a research professor at Rutgers University in the 1970s, pioneered what is termed in the industry as PEGylation, a drug delivery technology that infuses proteins into the blood for days or weeks instead of just minutes.
This avoids the need for large injections that can lead to toxicity.
Whereas most companies use the technology to improve an existing drug — about $30 billion worth of drugs use PEGylation — Prolong is applying it at the outset of the development of Sanguinate. The intent is to create entirely new molecules that, if developed according to plan, will drastically improve oxygen delivery to body parts.
Founded as a research lab in 2005, Prolong relaunched four years later as a biotech company with the help of $30 million provided by an undisclosed private investor.
The funding helped Prolong relocate from South Brunswick to its current manufacturing hub on Corporate Court, where it says it produces more PEG-based biologics in one month than the world does in a year.
Abuchowski, who successfully commercialized PEGylation by gaining Food and Drug Administration approval for three protein-based drugs at his prior company, Enzon Inc., envisions using the technology to treat cancer and trauma, as well.
“Our niche is our technology,” Abuchowski said, “our knowledge of our technology and the capability to apply that technology better than anybody in the world.”
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