Johnathon Anderson

Commercialization of Innovative Treatments Aided by STAIR Plus Grants

By Lisa Howard

August 6, 2018

Three research teams at University of California, Davis, have received STAIR-Plus™ Grants to help demonstrate proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility for their innovations. Now in its second year, the Venture Catalyst STAIR-Plus Grant program is intended to offer additional support to Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) Grant recipients who have successfully achieved their projected commercialization milestones and are poised for commercial impact pending the completion of specific targeted activities.

All three teams are working on commercializing novel compounds that address needs in human health, including a platform for therapeutics for inflammatory diseases, a drug candidate that increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment for advanced bladder cancer and compounds that may be effective at treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The STAIR Grant program has been instrumental in supporting campus innovators by enabling proof-of-concept studies to advance their technologies toward commercialization,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of research and executive director of Venture Catalyst. “Through STAIR-Plus Grant awards, translational outcomes from successful STAIR-funded projects can be accelerated to reach advanced-stage commercialization milestones.”

Each recipient will receive up to $20,000 in funding over a one-year period. Funding for the STAIR-Plus program was made possible by the State of California’s Assembly Bill 2664.

2018 STAIR-Plus Grant Recipients

Johnathon Anderson, Johnathon Anderson, UC Davis Department of OtolaryngologyJohnathon Anderson, assistant professor, Department of Otolaryngology
Anderson and his team have developed a novel drug candidate platform for inflammatory diseases that offers the beneficial aspects of stem-cell therapeutics with fewer hurdles to clinical development.

The STAIR Grant enabled Anderson’s team to conduct studies that provided the data to de-risk their preclinical development by establishing efficacy and mechanism of action in a model of neuroinflammation. Anderson plans to use funding from the STAIR-Plus Grant to streamline the critical path to market by focusing on aspects of product manufacturing.

Paul Henderson, UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and OncologyPaul Henderson, associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
Henderson and his team are developing a therapeutic drug that increases the effectiveness of existing chemotherapy treatment regimens for advanced bladder cancer. Their innovation, an orally bioavailable small molecule, combines anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic properties.

The STAIR Grant supported preclinical research evaluating the safety and efficacy for their lead compound in cancer therapy. Henderson now plans to use the STAIR-Plus Grant to perform key experiments to further de-risk the team’s technology and bolster the case for an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.

David Olson, UC Davis Department of Chemistry and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular MedicineDavid Olson, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
Olson and his team have recently published important cellular and in vivo studies demonstrating that certain psychedelic compounds can promote neural plasticity and produce effects in rodent behavioral tests relevant to treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
With assistance from the STAIR Grant, Olson’s group has synthesized and evaluated a number of analogs to psychedelic compounds designed to be safer and more efficacious alternatives for treating various neuropsychiatric disorders.

The STAIR-Plus Grant will allow the team to obtain additional in vivo data regarding safety and efficacy for their most promising molecules.

Support Extends Beyond Financial Awards

An important component of the STAIR-Plus Grant program is the engagement of award recipients, who have not previously received such support, with entrepreneurial and technology commercialization resources through a collaboration between Venture Catalyst and the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Award recipients are encouraged to participate in a cohort-based series of innovation and commercialization clinics designed to develop the skills and networks needed to explore and expand the commercial potential and resulting societal impact of their ideas. These highly customized business clinics include engagement with industry experts and mentors to supplement the workshops, which focus on commercialization elements, including market and business model validation and coaching for effective business communication.

About AB 2664

Assembly Bill 2664, also referred to as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion bill, was authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, and signed in 2016 by Governor Jerry Brown. AB 2664 is designed to propel new innovation and entrepreneurship efforts across the University of California through investments in infrastructure, incubators and entrepreneurship education programs. The $22 million investment was dispersed equally to each of the ten UC campuses at the beginning of 2017. Venture Catalyst is the program lead at UC Davis and is implementing a variety of innovation and entrepreneurship expansion activities in conjunction with partners on campus, including the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Engineering Student Startup Center, the Office of the Provost, Graduate Studies and the Internship and Career Center, as well as external community partners.

Media Contacts

AJ Cheline, Office of Research, (530) 752-1101, [email protected]



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