AURORA, Colo. – When Margaret Hamburg, top official of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) visited two laboratories on the Anschutz Medical Campus, they had a chance to learn about cancer biomarkers and shape memory polymers.

For their part, researchers had the opportunity to ask Hamburg and Bennet about future funding for Colorado research.

Hamburg and Bennet began their tour at the lab of Dr. Dan Theodorescu, Director of the Cancer Center. Theodorescu explained that his research was leading to personalized targeted therapies in the treatment of bladder cancer. “We can identify genetic signatures we see in petri dishes and use those to design treatments,” Theodorescu told Hamburg. “Now we are asking if we can take this research in the treatment of bladder cancer and extrapolate it to the treatment of all cancers.”

Hamburg observed that Theodorescu’s research led her to ask how many labs across the country are showing the same promise for translational science and should be supported to the next level of clinical trials and a pharmaceutical product. “Research like yours , said Hamburg “is reenergizing regulatory science. We need to have science, academia, industry, and the government work together to realize the benefits of using a biomarker to treat cancer.”

In response to questions about the possibilities of funding to take this research to the next level of clinical trials at the Anschutz Medical Campus, Hamburg said it is “too bad these insights are coming when research dollars are limited.” This was all the more reason, she said, that “everyone must work together.”

Hamburg and Bennet then moved to a presentation by Dr. Malik Kahook, Director of Research in the Department of Ophthalmology. Kahook showed the visitors how unique polymers can be inserted into tiny incisions in the eye and then, after being exposed to the ocular environment, be used to deliver drugs in the treatment of glaucoma. “We want to take this research to the next step,” Kahook told his visitors, “but when we seek venture capital, there’s always a push to move the research to the east coast or west coast. We would like to keep our technology development local. Can you help us keep this work in Colorado?”

In his answer, Bennet made no promises but reaffirmed his support for research at the university. “New jobs will come from new ideas and new inventions, and some of the best will be biotech inventions.”

Lily Marks, Vice President for Health Affairs and Executive Vice Chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus , told the two visitors very directly “We worry about the future of NIH funding.” Without making specific promises, Hamburg said “We always will support discovery sciences, but we have to make sure that discoveries turn into clinical trials and then into clinical care.”

The tour of the research labs completed the senator’s visit which began with him hosting a roundtable discussion with the FDA and Colorado biotech industry leaders.

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