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St Copharos

St Copharos

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Published by SherriLCruz

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Published by: SherriLCruz on Feb 01, 2013
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BUSINESSThe right combination ; Copharos Inc. may be the vehicle to deliver successfor two scientists who have developed a way to detect cancer using vitaminB- 12.Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Mpls.-St. PaulSherri Cruz; Staff Writer 22 October 2001Chemist Harry Hogenkamp and Dr. Douglas Collins have combined their  passions for vitamin B-12 and radiology to produce a way of diagnosingcancer earlier than conventional methods. If things go right for them, their method will one day be used by physicians.In fact, perhaps the toughest challenge Collins and Hogenkamp face isn'tscience anymore - it's the business of science.Business and science sometimes blend as poorly as oil and water. Businessworks to make a profit; science wants to advance technology and cure humanailments. But scientific research needs funding to get its discoveries anddevelopments to market.Hogenkamp, a biochemistry professor at the University of Minnesota, andCollins, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic, ran into that problem when they needed more funding to advance their product.They developed a tumor-imaging product that they say will detect cancer earlier than conventional methods such as an ultrasound. The diagnostictechnique is based on Hogenkamp's life's work: studying vitamin B-12. More promising than the technique's detection capabilities is its potential to treatcancers by sending along a therapeutic agent with the vitamin.But progress hasn't been easy. And the final outcome is still a few yearsaway. Transferring technology from the lab into a marketable business has been a vexing problem.
 
"What usually happens is the scientist doesn't want to pursue business,"Collins said. "I'm jumping into the business world, which I know nothingabout."Hogenkamp agreed. "I have never ever thought of a company," he said.He has studied vitamin B-12 for 45 years. "I'm a chemist, I mix thingstogether," Hogenkamp said. Like cooking with a recipe, he experiments withdifferent compounds that have one thing in common - vitamin B-12.Why B-12? "It's an incredibly complex molecule," he said. Plus, without it, a person dies.Hogenkamp, a native of the Netherlands, went to college in Canada beforemoving to the United States. His original career goal was to be a crop planter  but he found his passion - biochemistry - at the University of California,Berkeley.Friends and colleaguesCollins and Hogenkamp met in the mid-1980s. Collins, then a medicalstudent at the University of Minnesota, attended one of Hogenkamp'slectures. It wasn't Hogenkamp's thoughts on metabolism that stuck withCollins, it was the professor's enthusiasm for vitamin B-12.Collins describes Hogenkamp as a "nice, warm individual," a well- liked professor. When they first met, they both were on the university's educational policy committee. "We became friends," Collins said. And they sharedtheories, too.Hogenkamp said Collins "had a whole bunch of ideas. "Some of them werevery, very good." Some of them were iffy at best. But Collins said his friendalways said "let's try."In 1988, Collins graduated from medical school with an interest indiagnostics. He left Minnesota to study radiology at the University of Utah.
 
But he and Hogenkamp kept in touch, and after Collins' four- year stint inUtah, he - and a bunch of mice - drove back to Minnesota eager to try to prove his theories. He also began his fellowship in nuclear radiology at MayoClinic.Over the next several years, Collins began experimenting. All cells needvitamin B-12, Collins said, but fast-growing cells like cancers devour thevitamin. It gloms onto tumors. "In my mind," Collins said, "tumors aremisbehaving babies."So Hogenkamp and Collins attached a radioactive atom to vitamin B- 12.When they injected the compound into a patient, the radioactive atomhighlighted where the B-12 had gathered - the tumor.In addition to helping see tumors, the technique has the potential to deliver therapeutic agents to treat the cancer.Once they determined it worked well in animals, it was time to see how itworked in humans. In 1998, they tested it on their first patient. Since thenthey have tested it on 60 people with various types of cancer.The results were very good. The technique was able to distinguish between benign and malignant tissues. It was especially useful in detecting tumors in patients with dfficult-to-image breasts, including one woman whose cancer was missed by other methods such as mammography or ultrasound scanning.They come callingIt wasn't long before pharmaceutical companies came knocking on the door wanting to license the technology. The university - which patents facultyinventions - and Mayo considered the offers. But Collins wasn't ready to letgo of his work - he had more to do.That's when John Deedrick's expertise came in handy. Deedrick is venturemanager for Mayo's Medical Ventures' Venture Group, which helps promising medical-technology companies get off the ground. He took a look 

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