September 25, 2012
|Cheryl Baker ’94 completes FDA pre-clinical studies on a drug that will minimize the harmful side effects of radiation.|
It’s estimated that close to a million people in the United States will receive radiation therapy this year to treat cancer. In most cases, the radiation will be effective but not without causing awful side effects, some irreversible. To many, this is just an accepted reality in the world of cancer treatment. It’s not to Cheryl Baker ’94.
Baker’s company, BioCurity, has recently completed FDA pre-clinical studies on a drug that will minimize, even eradicate, the harmful side effects of radiation.
After graduating from Rollins with a chemistry degree, Baker went on to pursue her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology at Texas Tech and then to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for a post-doctoral fellowship related to oncology-focused translational research.
“For nearly two decades, I’ve had a curiosity about how cancer starts, spreads, and is treated,” said Baker, who chose the research side of oncology early on in her career. “As a researcher, you get the option of studying all of those, and if you’re lucky, providing novel discoveries.”
Over the course of her career, which in 2006 brought her back to Central Florida to serve as the Director of the Cancer Research Institute at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, Baker started to become frustrated by the number of novel discoveries that got stalled in the process of bringing them to market. “There were drugs that I tested in preclinical studies that resulted in data showing promising market potential; however, they never made it to market. The resources and mechanisms required to get a drug commercialized was very overwhelming, and in many cases, the entrepreneurial spirit was not there.”
When she and her research team began seeing hopeful prospects for a drug that could block the radiation damage to normal tissue but still allow the radiation to shrink cancer tumors, her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. She founded BioCurity and began the process of commercializing RadGuardTM, a drug that has the potential to not only drastically improve the quality of life of those people receiving radiation therapy, but the impact it can have on reducing the healthcare costs associated with post-radiation treatment is almost immeasurable.
“Having made these discoveries in the laboratory, one needs a mechanism to put them out to the patients. You can publish papers, you can write grants, you can have all sorts of funding to support the behind-the-scene, bench approach. But to put them at the bedside and have patients benefit from these discovers is a difficult path,” Baker said.
Her next step was to reach out to the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship. “I knew how to drive the science but I didn’t know how to drive the company,” said Baker, who had recently served at Rollins as an adjunct biochemistry professor. “I needed to understand how to catch the business up to the science.”
At the Center, Baker gained access to a pool of resources and contacts who worked with her on aspects of her marketing and business development, as well as creating an advisory board and connecting her with potential investors.
“Working with the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship has allowed me to meet with individuals who have patent expertise, funding, financial, and accounting expertise. It has helped me to understand the mechanism of business development,” she said. “It has been instrumental in guiding me through developing a business model around the technology, gaining access to individuals who will drive the business development, and it has allowed me do what I do best, which is drive this science and develop novel therapies for the millions of cancer patients. It’ll be a few more years before RadGuardTM makes its way into cancer clinics across the country, but that trajectory is set.”
By Kristen Manieri