Firm to use cancer research from LSU’s Pennington center

Hormones used in targeting drugs

K94 Discoveries Inc., a new biotechnology company, said Tuesday it has obtained $300,000 in seed financing to develop cancer therapies based on proprietary research from a professor at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

K94 said the financing was provided by BVM Capital LLC through its Themelios Ventures II LP fund. Ross P. Barrett, managing partner of BVM Capital, is interim president of the new company.

K94 said it is initially focusing on pancreatic cancer and is conducting research in ovarian and breast cancer.

K94 said its cancer therapies are being based on proprietary hormone receptor-targeting discoveries by founder Dr. William Hansel, a professor at the William Hansel Cancer Prevention Laboratory at Pennington.

A version of the technology is used in the targeted cancer drugs being developed by Esperance Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage Baton Rouge company partly based on Hansel’s inventions.

Hansel found what are called luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone receptors, present in large numbers on the surface of a wide variety of cancer cells, can be harnessed to target cancer.

K94 said its researchers are using a similar approach to develop targeted drugs by combining LHRH with the plant extract curcumin, which it said has attracted interest as a potential anti-cancer agent for decades. K94 said preclinical studies indicate that curcumin exhibits multiple anticancer properties, and in laboratory tests it promotes cancer cell death and slows the growth of tumors.

Curcumin’s therapeutic potential has been limited by its poor solubility, which the company’s drug conjugates are designed to overcome.

“We are fortunate in Louisiana to have access to extraordinary scientists such as Dr. Hansel, who think ‘outside the box’ in devising new ways to combat cancer,” said BVM and K94’s Barrett.

“Early data suggest that combining his pioneering work in hormone receptor-targeting therapies with novel anti-cancer agents could be a promising approach, and we welcome the opportunity to help advance this technology to the next stage.”

The partners of BVM Capital manage assets of more than $40 million allocated to three funds: generalist fund Louisiana Ventures LP and Themelios Ventures I and II LP, which are focused on life science and health care opportunities across the Southeast.