Business Plan Based on Duquesne Research Chosen for National Competition

The largest patent licensing deal in Duquesne history brought Dr. Aleem Gangjee’s portfolio of cancer-fighting compounds to a business venture just over one year ago. Now the transfer of this technology from the University to a startup has captured the attention of a national organization of intellectual property managers and lawyers through a business plan developed by Dr. Frank L. Sorgi, a three-time alumnus and member of Duquesne’s Alumni Board of Governors.

Sorgi, president and chief executive officer of FLAG Therapeutics, formed a company around the portfolio developed by Gangjee, a professor of medicinal chemistry. A former executive who developed pharmaceuticals to the clinical trial stage, Sorgi created one of only four business plans selected nationwide by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) as a finalist for its 2015 Venture Forum Business Plan Competition, Feb. 23-24. The competition, attracting more than 50 young companies, specifically focuses on university research that has made the leap into the commercial realm.

“One of the missions of the Office of Research is to facilitate the use of scholarly research as a springboard for economic development,” said Dr. Alan W. Seadler, associate academic vice president for research and technology. “Reaching this stage of recognition is a success both for Duquesne and FLAG Therapeutics. Drugs are not easy products to commercialize, although this model of university research technology transfer might suggest ways that other hard-to-commercialize technology might get a chance in the marketplace, blazing a new way that Duquesne and its alumni might continue interacting.

“This agreement wouldn’t have occurred without our technology,” Seadler added. “It also wouldn’t have occurred without Frank’s relationship with Aleem and the School of Pharmacy. And it wouldn’t have occurred without Frank’s background, which plays a critical role. Our agreement builds off his experience and his continued relationship with Duquesne. So Frank is using our technology, and this is happening in a way that is helping an alum—and in a way that assists Duquesne, with revenue from the patent sale and possible royalties.”

Having the plan chosen as one of the top among university-related intellectual properties across the country is mutually beneficial, Sorgi said. “Being selected as a finalist by AUTM provides validation that the panel of judges agrees that we have a strong development plan—plus we have a seasoned team working toward the initiation of clinical testing,” Sorgi said. “The opportunity to present at the AUTM national meeting has helped to increase awareness of the value of Dr. Gangjee’s technology and hopefully will lead to FLAG completing the necessary financing to bring these oncology compounds to cancer patients in the near future.”