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Professor’s biotech firm focuses on treating drug-resistant infections /

Texas A&M University Professor of Biology Jim Smith founded Sano Chemicals in 2012 and since then the company has continued to develop innovative technologies for acute and chronic illnesses with a focus on treating drug-resistant fungal and bacterial infections.

Texas A&M University Innovation Partners, the university’s commercialization and new ventures office, has worked in partnership with Sano Chemicals to aid in the commercial application of these innovative technologies by securing patent protection and subsequently licensing the patent rights to Sano.

The collaboration with Innovation Partners and other entrepreneurial and commercialization-related university units also helps Sano and Texas A&M contribute directly to the strength and diversity of the local economy by creating new, high-tech job opportunities, both in A&M labs and at Sano Chemicals, which currently employs 12 people in various capacities. Ravi Orugunty, Sano Chemicals Vice President of Product Development, said several of the technologies developed in Smith’s Lab at Texas A&M are licensed to Sano. Sano takes these technologies to the clinical stage.

“The Smith Lab has received a tremendous amount of support from the university system,” said Orugunty. “We are able to move these technologies forward and, as a result, Sano was able to garner sufficient NIH [National Institutes of Health] support for its product development. Innovation Partners has done all the spadework, so to speak, to make sure that we have a smooth transition of all the technologies from Dr. Smith’s lab to Sano Chemicals.”

The partnership between Sano Chemicals and Innovation Partners has proved beneficial on both fronts. Smith said he views Innovation Partners as one of many valuable partnerships within the university system.

“The relationship entails a license agreement for technology that Sano Chemicals is developing to treat diseases that have unmet needs,” said Smith. “Some of that technology that has come from my lab at A&M is being translated into new medicines to treat infectious diseases and cancer. I’ve always viewed the university as a partner, and we are both in this together. If Sano is not successful, the university is not successful; if Sano is successful, the university is successful.”

Sano Chemicals’ efforts not only benefit those in the university community, but the company has made advances in medical technologies and continues to do so. Smith explained that Sano is currently working on several therapeutic products.

“What we’ve identified as a very potent antifungal compound is one of our technologies, which we are developing into a new treatment for invasive and noninvasive fungal infections,” said Smith. “The lead product we’re developing at Sano right now is a product to treat recurrent vaginal candidiasis. We’re also developing another antimicrobial compound to treat staph infections. We are working on another platform technology to be able to treat cancer, as well.”